Celebrating, but can it last?
It is said that revenge is a dish best served cold. It is also said that cliches are the crutch of an uninspired writer. From way up on my perch, I can't say I disagree with either sentiment.
The South Carolina Gamecocks (9-1, 0-0 SEC) took two of three this week from the Clemson Tigers (5-4, 0-0 ACC) in a touring series that saw a game a piece played in Charleston, Columbia, and Clemson. While the Gamecocks notched victories on Friday and Saturday, it was the Tigers that claimed a modicum of revenge on a cool Sunday afternoon that stood in stark contrast to the mild temperatures earlier in the week.
Game one showcased why this series has been recognized as the premiere rivalry in college baseball. Gamecocks and Tiger fans, alike, converged on The Holy City Friday night with hopes of seeing a great game. Boy, howdy, they were not to be disappointed. Fans of our America's national past time were treated to a chess match of sorts that had some calling it an instant classic. South Carolina ace, Michael Roth (1-0, 0.89 ERA) struck out 7 in 7.1 innings of work. Roth was his usual superb self and held the Tigers without a run until the seventh inning, when a lead-off walk gave Clemson enough momentum to push across the tying run. Kevin Brady (0-0, 1.12 ERA) and Matt Campbell (0-1, 3.24 ERA) were phenomenal for the Tigers. The pair combined to allow just 5 Gamecock hits scattered over nine innings. It wasn't until the eleventh frame that the Gamecocks broke the tie. Christian Walker coaxed a lead-off walk from Clemson reliever Daniel Gossett (0-1, 4.91 ERA). From there, Ray Tanner employed his trademark small ball routine. An L.B. Dantzler sacrifice bunt moved Walker to second where upon he was summarily advanced to third by a pinch-hitting Kyle Martin single. Successive singles by Sean Sullivan and Connor Bright put Carolina up by two. The Gamecocks appeared to have Gossett's number and might have done more damage in the inning if not for the sacrifice out given up to advance Walker to second. Regardless, the Gamecocks pushed across two runs before moving to the bottom half of the inning.
Things got dicey for Carolina after Forrest Koumas (1-1, 5.40 ERA) gave a lead-off double to begin the Clemson eleventh. Tanner pulled Koumas for Tyler Webb (1-0, 0.00 ERA) who retired the only batter he faced. Next in line for the Gamecocks was Ethan Carter (1-0, 0.00 ERA) who was coming off an impressive performance the previous weekend. Carter induced a ground ball to freshman short stop Joey Pankake, but the pressure must have been a little too much for the Short Stack Shortstop. Pankake booted the play which resulted in a Clemson run and the tying run on first base. Carter struck out the next batter, but could not seem to get any help from his comrades in the field. L.B. Dantzler committed a throwing error on what should have been the last out of the game. The result was the tying run advancing to third, the winning run reaching first, and the end of the night for Ethan Carter. The diminutive Nolan Belcher (1-0, 0.00) entered to record the final out. The key for the Gamecock defense was getting the ball to the outfield where our fielding talent has range and then some. Wisely, Belcher induced a fly ball to center field that required every ounce of skill from Evan Marzilli to field cleanly. By all accounts (I was unable to watch the game) Marzilli made a spectacular catch to secure the victory. This on the feels of a frozen-rope throw from center field earlier in the game that saved a run. If his batting average were a bit more robust, Marzilli would be neck and neck with Christian Walker for MVP so far this season. The Gamecocks held to for the 3-2 victory. If you're looking for a more detailed account of the game, I strongly encourage you to have a look at GABA regular Gamecock'N'Balls' first person account of the game. Thanks, 'Ballsey!
More after the jump.
Game two in Columbia, SC brought more runs and fewer errors for the Gamecocks. USC ousted Clemson starter Dominic Leon (2-1, 6.75) in the third inning after a 3-run home run by Adam Matthews. Jonathan Meyer (0-1, 7.71 ERA) kept the game close with three innings of work in which he only allowed one run. The Gamecocks were in control the entire afternoon -- even after allowing the Tigers a two run home run in the top of the 9th. True freshman Evan Beal (1-0, 3.00 ERA) had a breakout performance during the game. He went four innings in relief, giving up 3 hits and striking out 5 before tiring in the 9th. Nolan Blecher finished the game to record his second save in as many nights with as many outs. Joey Pankake committed errors number two and three of the weekend, and while they didn't affect the outcome of the game, they couldn't have induced any confidence in the pitching staff.
Game three looked like it might have gone the Gamecocks' way initially. Carolina took advantage of 2 Clemson errors in the second inning and scored four runs. However, poor fielding and lack of general awareness did the Gamecocks in. Clemson rallied back in the later innings. Second baseman Steve Wilkerson hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning for the Tigers to take the ballgame, 6-5.
South Carolina now trails Clemson 169-127-2 in the all-time series. Jack Leggett is now 0-7 verses the Gamecocks on a neutral field. Next week the Gamecocks will face UNC Asheville on Wednesday before hosting Princeton for a weekend series. South Carolina leads the all-time series with UNC Asheville 7-0.
Folks, if this weekend wrap-up seemed a little half-assed, well, it's because it was. You see, I was approaching completeness with today's post when an errant key-stroke snuffed out my work. I lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100 of my 1,800 words, and those of you still in school will recognize that amount as nearly equivalent to a term paper. I wanted to re-write the whole thing, -- I really did -- but there's only so much of yourself you can pour into a project... and then be asked to do it all over again. My sincere apologies. Here at GABA we take pride in our baseball coverage, and the Clemson series is the perfect opportunity to showcase our commitment to that coverage. You'll have to take my word for it that it was a helluva post. It had it all: recap, stats, research, digs at Clemson, literary allusion. Alas, I can't muster up the gumption to try to recreate it. Below is, in a nutshell, my main thrust.
The team's hitting will need to improve greatly if we want to enjoy the kind of success we've become accustomed to over the last two years. As a team we're hitting .267, which won't get it done. Moreover, even with our talented pitching staff we will struggle if our fielding does not improve. In three games against Clemson we failed to record a single double play. And we had plenty of chances; Clemson had runners on base in every inning of the Sunday game. The Gamecocks have only fielded 3 double plays over the course of the entire season for an average of 0.30 per game. Last year the Gamecocks recorded 80 double plays on the year for an average of 1.16 per game. The loss of Morales, Mooney, and Wingo is really hurting us, folks. The good news is there is plenty of time for improvement. If there's one thing I have faith in, it's Ray Tanner's coaching ability. Alright, thanks for bearing with my technical difficulties, dear reader. We'll be back later in the week with a preview of the Princeton series.