Greiner, Gore both hit walk-off home runs in Saturday wins
When Joey Pankake’s two-out fly ball was soaring towards the glove of Tennessee’s Vincent Jackson, the game was over. But the right fielder dropped it.
What ensued capped off one of the most ludicrous days of baseball in Carolina Stadium history. After Pankake reached second base on the error, a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases for junior catcher Grayson Greiner, who promptly smashed a walk-off grand slam over the left field wall to lead the Gamecocks past the Volunteers Saturday night with a final score of 9-6.
Greiner’s game-winning blast would have carried enough excitement for at least an entire weekend of baseball, but it came in the second game of the day, after the first contest also ended on a walk-off home run.
“Obviously that was a special day for us,” head coach Chad Holbrook said. “I can’t sit here and tell you that I’ve ever seen anything like that.”
The first game-winner of the day came off the bat of freshman Jordan Gore after Friday’s 11-inning affair was delayed until the following day. Game one picked up in the 12th frame Saturday and wasn’t decided until Gore’s homer in the 14th gave South Carolina the 3-2 victory.
Saturday’s regularly scheduled game began after the conclusion of the first, and for the bulk of the contest, it wasn’t close. The Volunteers struck early with a four-run second inning, and by the end of the fourth Tennessee was up 6-1.
South Carolina entered the ninth frame down 6-3, and the Gamecocks were already down to their last out by the time the rally began. Brison Celek’s two-out pinch-hit single preceded a two-run homer from Max Schrock to cut the Volunteer lead to 6-5.
That’s when Pankake — who extended his current hitting streak to 15 games over the weekend — would step up to the plate, setting into motion the events that lead to Greiner’s shot heard ’round Columbia.
“I knew that one was way out of here,” he said. “I didn’t even watch it. I was just taking in the moment. It’s not very often you get to play two games in one day and have two walk-off home runs.”
Greiner was 3-5 at the plate in Saturday’s second game, giving him the most hits of any Gamecock in the contest. None of which were even close to as big as his last one.
“This doesn’t even feel real, honestly,” Greiner said. “This team never gives up.”
After pitching innings 12 through 14 in Saturday’s first game, sophomore Jack Wynkoop earned his first win technically in a relief role, though he was the first pitcher of the day to take the mound. He pitched 1.1 frames to start game two, but freshman Reed Scott pitched six innings to earn the second win Saturday.
Sunday’s contest was much tamer than the two that preceded it. South Carolina spread out its scoring effort across all nine innings to earn an 8-0 victory to sweep the weekend series against the Volunteers.
Sevierville, Tenn. native Wil Crowe continued his impressive first collegiate season with 7.1 scoreless innings Sunday against his home-state team in what Holbrook and Greiner called his best outing yet. The freshman righty has six wins on the year, the most of any Gamecock hurler.
South Carolina entered the weekend dead even in the SEC with a 3-3 conference record, but three-straight wins over Tennessee catapults the Gamecocks into a tie with Florida for the SEC East lead.
And while Holbrook was careful not to put too much emphasis on a single series before opening up the set against Tennessee, he is certainly happy to emerge from the weekend with three more conference wins.
“It was a great weekend for us, obviously,” Holbrook said. “We consider ourselves very fortunate. I don’t think there’s much separation between us and Tennessee. I was very, very happy with the way we played.”