Pankake goes 3-4, ties career-high with 3 RBIs
It was a chilly night Tuesday when the South Carolina baseball team took on the College of Charleston. But the Gamecocks didn’t seem to mind the cold as they cruised to a 4-2 victory over the Cougars.
“I’m proud of our team. I mean, the conditions weren’t necessarily great out there obviously — very cold and windy and blustery,” head coach Chad Holbrook said. “Not very easy to play out there tonight, but our guys hung in there pretty good.”
The scoring started early for South Carolina (20-3, 3-3 SEC), getting on the board in the first inning after junior Joey Pankake hit one of his three RBIs to send Tanner English home. Pankake would cross the plate himself in the opening frame, giving the Gamecocks a two-run lead after one inning that would hold for the rest of the evening.
Pankake’s RBI total tied his career high for the second time in as many games, as the infielder/outfielder drove in the same number of runs in Sunday’s series finale against Kentucky. His three hits in the game extend his active hitting streak to 11 games.
“I’ve been seeing it really well,” Pankake said. “I’ve basically hit really well, and I’ve felt the barrel good.”
Pankake was batting .307 entering Tuesday’s tilt against the Cougars (16-8). He’s one of six Gamecocks hitting over .300 on the year.
“He’s just getting some good swings,” Holbrook said. “He’s not putting too much pressure on himself, not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, and he’s got some confidence going on.”
Junior Elliott Caldwell joined Pankake as the only Gamecock with multiple hits in the game, collecting two to go with Pankake’s three.
South Carolina cycled through four pitchers in the contest, with freshman Taylor Widener getting the start on the hill, freshman Josh Reagan and sophomore Vince Fiori pitching in relief and junior Cody Mincey closing out the affair.
Although Widener allowed just one hit in his three innings of work, he said the thermometer was his worst enemy on the mound Tuesday night.
“It was really cold,” Widener said. “It was nippy out there, and I just didn’t feel like I had my best stuff, but (there was a) good team behind me.”
The Gamecock pitching staff combined to allow four hits while striking out seven batters despite the unfavorable conditions. Reagan earned the win for his efforts, and Mincey was credited with the save.
Sophomore Max Schrock and junior Grayson Greiner sat out Tuesday’s win with nagging injuries to the ankle and thumb, respectively, that Holbrook deemed significant enough to warrant sitting out a non-SEC contest.
South Carolina will play a rare second mid-week game tonight when another in-state rival, Coastal Carolina, comes to town.
The forecast says the matchup with the Chanticleers should be slightly warmer than the game against the Cougars, but Holbrook said he was pleased with the way his Gamecocks overcame one of winter’s last-ditch efforts to freeze Columbia Tuesday night.
“It was tough out there. I don’t know what the wind chill was, but man, I couldn’t wait to get that 27th out,” Holbrook said. “But you still have to play the game, and for the most part, our kids did. The guys that were in the lineup, they didn’t seem too fazed by it.”