Gamecocks defeat Bulldogs 6-5 after giving up 3 runs in 9th
The Gamecocks were one out away from a win in the top of the ninth when a two-run single tied the game instead.
But sophomore shortstop Joey Pankake lifted the second pitch he saw in the bottom of the ninth for a game-winning home run, giving USC the 6-5 victory at Carolina Stadium Tuesday.
“You always feel good when you’re at home and you’re tied,” coach Chad Holbrook said. “You have the last crack at it.”
Pankake said he expected a fastball on the second pitch after The Citadel’s David Rivera threw a slider to begin the at-bat.
“I have to give credit to (senior pitcher) Adam Westmoreland for calling the shot,” junior Brison Celek said.
The win was USC’s fourth straight after a road sweep of Tennessee last weekend. The Gamecocks (27-7, 8-4 SEC) scored 36 runs in the three wins.
The Citadel got to sophomore starter Joel Seddon for two runs in the first to take an early lead. The Bulldogs had a chance to break the game open in their half of the third, when they loaded the bases with no outs. But freshman Vince Fiori worked out of the jam, forcing a pop fly and a double play to end the inning.
Fiori entered the game with a 1.29 ERA, which he improved by pitching 4.1 scoreless innings in relief.
“He was probably the difference for us on the mound,” Holbrook said.
The Gamecocks evened the score in the second inning. Senior catcher Dante Rosenberg hit a solo home run to put USC on the board, and sophomore center fielder Tanner English followed with a single, advancing to second when a pickoff attempt was off the mark. English scored on a sacrifice fly by junior third baseman Chase Vergason.
In the seventh, a pinch-hit RBI single from Celek scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh inning, and a double by sophomore Grayson Greiner added two runs.
The Citadel countered with three runs to tie the game in the ninth, the first coming on a bases-loaded walk. Holbrook said he was disappointed with sophomore Evan Beal for giving up the game-tying single in that situation.
“All of a sudden he couldn’t find the strike zone,” Holbrook said. “That was frustrating because Evan Beal, as experienced as he is, should be able to finish that game out.”
The coach said the Gamecocks felt fortunate to have won the game, a comment Pankake echoed.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Pankake said. “We had to just work and see what we could get done.”
Injury note: Freshman second baseman Max Schrock left the game in the third inning after a collision with a runner as he covered first base. He was taken for X-rays during the game.
Holbrook said after the game that Schrock has a slight concussion but has no fracture in his neck. He is expected to travel with the team to Florida this weekend.
“The doctor was very concerned at first with some concussion symptoms,” Holbrook said. “They subsided very, very quickly.”