Gamecocks and Tar Heels face off for College World Series berth Monday
With their backs against the wall, the Gamecocks showed why they’ve been one of college baseball’s most successful programs over the past three seasons, shutting out North Carolina for the first time in more than two years.
Facing elimination, South Carolina throttled North Carolina 8-0 in game two of the Chapel Hill Super Regional. A day after stranding 12 runners, USC needed just eight hits to bring home eight runs. The Gamecocks were aided by a Tar Heel pitching staff that walked nine batters on the day.
The game marked the fourth time in South Carolina’s last five Super Regionals where the Gamecocks scored at least eight runs in game two of the series.
USC set the tone in the second inning, plating five runs and knocking North Carolina starter Hobbs Johnson out of the game. Max Schrock led the inning off with a double and advanced to third on a groundout by T.J. Costen. Following a Kyle Martin walk, Tanner English beat out a bunt single to score Schrock. Joey Pankake and L.B. Dantzler each drove home two runs with two outs in the inning to put USC out in front, 5-0.
On the mound, USC got a dominating performance from sophomore Jordan Montgomery. The left-hander limited the Tar Heels to just four hits in a complete game shutout. It was the first time in 97 games that North Carolina had not scored a run and the first complete game of Montgomery’s career.
The former Sumter High School standout tossed 121 pitchers, striking out three batters and walking just one to earn his sixth victory of the season. Montgomery has not allowed a run in his last 25 innings in the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Chad Holbrook noted that Montgomery’s performance was even more impressive when considering the team that he faced.
“Jordan was incredible,” Holbrook said. “To shut out a team like North Carolina, that’s an awfully hard thing to do. He was terrific from pitch one.”
Montgomery said that the loss in game one provided extra motivation.
“With it being an elimination game, that gave me extra incentive to do well,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t want the seniors to go out that way.”
While South Carolina was able produce runs, the Gamecocks continued to struggle in the field. USC committed three errors for the second consecutive day, but the Tar Heels were unable to convert those mistakes into runs. Holbrook credited Montgomery for keeping UNC off the board, despite less than stellar play from his defense.
“Usually, when you make three errors against a team like North Carolina, they’re going to make you pay,” Holbrook said. “Jordan was just too good today.”
The Gamecocks were aggressive on the base paths, as USC swiped five bags on the day. English stole three bases to go along with his two hits. The sophomore center fielder also had a spectacular diving catch in the ninth inning to help preserve the shutout.
“I was just trying to out and help the team any way I could,” English said, “and I had a blast doing it.”
The Gamecocks and Tar Heels will play game three on Monday, with a berth in the College World Series on the line. USC will send freshman Jack Wynkoop to the mound for the series finale. Holbrook said that his team knows that there is still work to be done.
“Our guys laid it on the line today and they’re going to have to lay it on the line tomorrow, because North Carolina is so dadgum good,” he said. “They’re not going to crown us or give us a trophy today. We’ve got nine innings to go.”