In Friday’s tilt against Campbell, if there was one thing the Gamecocks had, it was starting pitching. Friday starter Jordan Montgomery pitched into the ninth inning, and seemed to control every aspect of the ball game.
The bullpen was rested and ready to go just in case the Gamecocks’ starting pitching ran into any problems along the way this weekend.
And good thing it was. South Carolina received only 1.2 innings from starting pitcher Jack Wynkoop and was forced to go to the bullpen in just the second inning.
Freshman reliever Taylor Widener was thrusted into the de-facto starting pitcher role, tossing a career-high 6.1 innings and shut out the Terrapins offense that tormented Wynkoop. Maryland was able to scrape together a couple hits against Widener, but not much else.
“I hope we can look back after the weekend and say that the outing by Taylor Widener was one of the main reasons we were able to win a few games here,” head coach Chad Holbrook said.
Wynkoop was tagged for four runs on six hits, although only two runs were earned. After limiting the damage in the first inning to one run, Wynkoop settled down and looked to have gained control of the game.
The next batter, catcher Kevin Martir, singled to left and was able to stretch a single to second after leftfielder Gene Cone misplayed the ball. With two outs and a man on second, Wynkoop watched as an infield single extended the inning, and one batter later a LaMonte Wade drive to right field plated one run.
Brandon Lowe, who got the Terrapins on the board in the first inning, then punched a ball down the third base line. Gamecocks third baseman Joey Pankake charged the slow roller, but then made an error that ultimately decided the game. Pankake’s throw sailed over first baseman Kyle Martin’s head, allowing White and Wade to score.
“Two unearned runs on the board and we lost by a run. I told the guys that we pride ourselves on pitching and playing defense,” Holbrook said, “and we did that for seven innings. In the postseason, you have to do it for nine.”
On the offensive side of the ball, freshman starting pitcher Mike Shawaryn frustrated South Carolina hitters early on, keeping them off-balance.
Shawaryn forced nine Gamecock fly outs over 6.1 innings, surrendering only three runs on five hits.
Able to see Shawaryn from his first at bat, DC Arendas had a pair of hits against the Maryland freshmen, including an RBI single in the top of the fourth inning that scored Kyle Martin and gave South Carolina its first run of the game.
In the top of the sixth, Kyle Martin laced a Shawaryn pitch to the right field wall, missing a home run by about a foot. Had the ball gone over the fence, the Gamecocks would have tied the game. Instead, Martin was forced to settle for an RBI double, and watched as a DC Arendas sacrifice fly would score Joey Pankake.
South Carolina eventually chased Shawaryn in the seventh inning, but fared no better against the Terrapin bullpen.
Relief pitcher Bobby Ruse gave up only one hit in one inning of work, and closer Kevin Mooney relieved him in an extended save situation.
The Gamecocks were able to get leadoff man Tanner English on base to start the ninth inning, but then Mooney struck out Marcus Mooney.
With one out, English rounded second and took third base on a perfectly executed hit-and-run play off the bat of Max Schrock. With runners on the corners and one out, the fate of the game fell to the hands of Joey Pankake.
In a potentially redeeming role, Pankake shot a ground ball to second base, where Maryland was able to turn a double play to end the game.
“We had our guys up at the plate,” Holbrook said. “I mean, if we started the ninth inning and you said it was going to be first and third with one out, we’d sign up for that every day. We had our chances.”
South Carolina will play Campbell Sunday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game. If they win, the Gamecocks will then play Maryland again at 7 p.m. to try to force a game on Monday.
“If I’ve got the kind of kids on my team that I think I’ve got, we’ll come ready to go tomorrow,” Holbrook said. “We’ll come ready to go.”