"3 consecutive victories. AH AH AH AH AH!" (via detroit.metromix.com)
We're back in the Supers, folks! After a pair of weekends of that left Carolina fans with little to be happy about, the Gamecocks put together a 1-2-3 sweep of the Columbia regional this weekend.
The festivities kicked off with a 9-5 victory over red-hot Bucknell on Friday night. After taking a 5-1 lead over USC in the top of the 6th Bucknell appeared poised to provide an encore of its 2008 performance, when it knocked off nationally seeded FSU in the opening game of its regional. After 7 innings South Carolina had cut the lead to 5-4, but it wasn't until a 5 run bottom of the 8th that the Gamecocks took control. Despite the come-from-behind win, this game was characterized by sloppy play all the way around. I mean, we're talking about Bucknell here. I gleaned this tidbit straight from their websie:
Bucknell finished the season with 25 wins, its third straight 20-win campaign. It also reached the NCAAs for the fifth time, all since 1996. The Bison earned their berth in the NCAA Regionals by winning the Patriot League Tournament as the No. 4 seed.
They're touting 20-win seasons over there. Gamecock fans raise holy hell if we don't win 40.
Despite the 3 earned runs he allowed, Sam Dyson pitched well overall. He struck out 7, allowed just 4 hits, and gave up 2 walks in 5 innings of work. His defense, who committed 3 errors on the night, didn't do him any favors. Jose Mata came on in relief but faced just 5 batters while giving up an earned run on 2 hits. Not until Michael Roth came on to finish out the game did the Gamecocks shut down the Bison hitters. Roth went 3.1 inning without surrendering a hit while striking out 5.
More analysis after the jump.
Tanner and the coaches did their part to make this one a lot closer than it should have been as well. While I applaud Ray's decision finally to get all of our best hitters in the lineup, I have to question some of his in-game moves. In a game in which Evan Marzilli was 2-3 with a home run, it sounds a little absurd to pinch hit Parker Bangs for him in the 7th inning with the bases loaded. Yet that is what happened. Luckily the move carried a few positive externalities with it. The Bucknell coach made an equally questionable move by substituting a pitcher with a 9.47 ERA for one with a 5.08 ERA. Bangs may have struck out to end the 7th, but Bucknell paid for their stupidity in the 8th inning. The Bangs pinch hit also had the effect of making Tanner pinch hit Robert Beary for red-hot (by his standards) Bobby Haney . Beary is currently hitting .269, just a shade above Haney's ever-climbing .250. Beary got the hit, but Haney was already 1-4 on the night. Overall, the game was characterized by poor execution and questionable coaching the entire night. The lone highlights were well-placed home runs by Marzilli (3), Bradley (10), Morales (6).
Game two provided little redemption for the Gamecock fielders. In the 9-4 victory South Carolina committed just 1 error but allowed 4 unearned runs. Twice Citadel batters struck out swinging but managed to reach first pursuant to rule 6.09(b). The Citadel made the Gamecocks each time for a total of 4 runs. Blake Cooper turned in his usual studly performance as he struck out 12 while not allowing an earned run in 7.1 innings of work. Matt Price finished out the game, recording his 8th save in the process. Adrian Morales went 2-3 with 3 RBIs while Whit Merrifield and Kyle Enders had 3 strike outs a piece. The team combined for 14 strike outs and just 1 walk (although you can't fault the team too much considering Asher Wojciechowski leads the nation in strike outs). In the 7th Evan Marzilli pinch hit for Adam Mathews and stroked a 2 RBI single into center field. The 'Cocks cruised from there on out as they recorded 3 more runs before the inning was over.
10-2 victory. Jose Mata (7-1) got the win in a performance that completely redeemed his struggles in the first game. He struck out 5 in 4.1 innings of work while allowing 2 hits. Evan Marzilli got his second start of the weekend, this time in left field. As a team the Gamecocks still managed just 1 base on balls, but this time they cut down their strike outs to a total of 6. JBJ (11) and Morales (8) each added a home runs for good measure. Sunday's game was South Carolina's best of the weekend, far and away.gave the Gamecocks his customary 3+ innings of work while allowing just 2 runs. Those 2 runs would prove to be all Hokies could muster as the Gamecocks rolled to a
Certainly, South Carolina fans can take heart that USC is once again playing up to it's potential. In each of the three games Carolina recorded 14 hits. Gamecock pitchers combined for a 3.67 ERA. That's right in line with their SEC leading 3.62 season ERA. If the maxims are true - and good pitching really does always beat good hitting - then one has to like our chances from here on out. Ray Tanner also seems determined to get Evan Marzilli his hacks. The true freshman started two games this weekend and entered a third as a pinch hitter. We here at GABA have long been in Marzilli's corner and are glad he's getting more playing time - even if that means that veterans like Nick Ebert and Jeffrey Jones will have to ride the bench for the betterment of the team.
One thing is for sure, baseball fans under all banners are in for a treat next weekend. As I write this, Coastal Carolina and the College of Charleston in the middle of wrapping a regional that can best be described as epic. Carolina will have its hands full with whomever its opponent ends up being. More on that later. For now...