If the dramatics against Tennessee were enough for Gamecock baseball fans, they weren’t for one of the heroes of this past weekend’s series.
Junior catcher Grayson Greiner came on to pinch-hit in the ninth frame Tuesday with a runner on second, and he hit a walk-off single down the left field line to give South Carolina a 2-1 victory against Appalachian State.
Greiner’s hit gave the Gamecocks their third walk-off victory in four games, and it has his teammates raving about the catcher’s performance of late.
“I have faith in Gary,” junior Joey Pankake said of his roommate Grayson Greiner. “I saw when he went up to the plate. I started untying my cleats and packed my stuff up.”
Continuing on from his SEC Player of the Week selection last week, Greiner now has eight RBIs and eight hits in the last four games.
Small ball helped set up Greiner in the last inning. Junior right fielder Connor Bright singled up the middle to start the inning, giving him a 3-for-4 day at the plate. Then freshman Jordan Gore, also one of Saturday’s heroes, pinch-hit and delivered a sacrifice bunt to move Bright to second.
That set up Greiner, who did not even take batting practice before the game due to a hand injury that has been nagging him. After the game, coach Chad Holbrook said that he has coached several major league catchers in his career, but Greiner may be the best of all of them.
The intense weekend may have taken the life out of most of the South Carolina bats, as the team had nine hits to earn those two runs, leaving seven men on base.
Holbrook said he was not proud of how his team hit against the Mountaineers for the most part and added the Gamecocks must have a better approach against a great pitching team in Arkansas this weekend.
“But it was a good win for us,” he said. “I told the guys we’re halfway through our 56-game regular season schedule, and we’re 25-3. So I can’t complain too much at what they’ve done.”
Lost in Greiner’s clutch finish once again was the performance of Gamecock junior starting pitcher Evan Beal. In his second start of the season, he threw 5.1 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out three batters, but it was not enough to earn a decision.
After Bright gave the Gamecocks the lead in fourth inning on a single into left field off a 3-0 pitch, Beal went into the sixth inning before freshman Josh Reagan came on in relief.
Reagan hit a Mountaineer batter and then threw wildly in a pickoff attempt to advance the runner all the way to third. Sophomore center fielder Jaylin Davis hit a single to tie the game and give Reagan a technically unearned run.
Reagan finished his inning of relief with two strikeouts before fellow freshman Taylor Widener relieved him. Widener threw 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball, and sophomore Vince Fiori did the same to earn his first win of the season. Fiori has thrown 12.2 innings this season, all without giving up an earned run.
Pankake extended his hitting streak to 16 games after going 2-for-3 on the night with a run scored.
Holbrook is not complacent with his team’s success at the midway point of the season and said there are still concerns about winning in league play if the players the team depends on to get hits cannot come through.
Still, he realized how hard it is to win games late like the team has done recently and praised his team and a certain player’s character.
“They’ve done a really good job, and I’m lucky to have Grayson Greiner on my team,” Holbrook said. “That kid never ceases to amaze me.”