2012 South Carolina Baseball: Lessons Learned from Tennessee Series

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South Carolina took 2 of 3 from Tennessee over the weekend at The Ray.

Breaking it Down...Friday night's game was a seesaw affair.  Tennessee struck first in the top of the third.  Two doubles led to a one run lead.  South Carolina took the lead 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a Tennessee error and an LB Dantzler double.  UT quickly answered in the 6th.  A lead off hit by pitch turned into a run when the Vols slugged a home run two batters later. 

Trailing 3-2, USC answered back in the 6th.  The Gamecocks benefitted from a HBP and two walks to go with their two hits, but they only got two runs because of two base running blunders.  That missed opportunity would be felt in a big way.  Tennessee tied the game at 4 in the 8th on the heels of a lead off double, and took the lead in the ninth on a strange play.  With runners at the corners and one out, UT popped a bunt directly to Matt Price.  He caught the ball and turned to throw to third to double off the runner.  Dantzler, the third baseman had been charging, so he and Pankake were converging on the base.  Price's toss sailed high, and the game winning run scampered home.

On Saturday Tennessee took a quick 1-0 lead after a lead off triple.  That was the only score they got.  Jordan Montgomery locked down the Vols and pitched until he was relieved by Tyler Webb in the ninth.  The offense wasn't as spectacular.  Runners got on, but they didn't come home until the fourth.  USC left 2 on in the first, second and third innings.  After getting a run on a sac fly in the fourth, Carolina left the bases loaded that inning and again in the fifth.  They would leave 2 on in the 7th and 1 in the 8th.  In the ninth they broke through.  Connor Bright, who had been inserted to pinch run in the 5th, led off with a single.    Greiner moved him over with a perfect sacrifice.  A wild pitch brought Bright to third, and L.B. Dantzler tattooed the first pitch he saw to deep centerfield to win the game.

Sunday was a bit less dramatic.  Colby Holmes put on a clinic and allowed only a solo home run in the 7th as he pitched 7 innings of outstanding baseball.  The South Carolina bats awoke in the 5th inning with 4 runs.  There were only two hits, but an error and two walks helped pile on the runs.  In the eighth, Carolina's offense put the game away,  Once again it was two hits helped by patient at bats.  A HBP and walk went along with Pankake's single and Dante Rosenberg's double to ice the game.  Evan Beal pitched the last two innings to record the save.

What to Take Away From the Weekend...Things looked a little dicey after Friday night, but an exceptional pitching performance and just enough runs on Saturday turned it around.  The Gamecocks got the series win they needed, and that's the most important thing.

There are still some areas that need improvement.  The most glaring is timely hitting.  The Gamecocks left an army on base.  (See below for exact numbers.)  If you know how to fix that, let me know.  There isn't any reason for lack of timely hitting, generally, but when it persists players can try too hard and end up making the problem worse.  This team has good hitters who will get clutch hits.  All they need to do is relax and continue to swing and the balls will start finding the gaps.

Another thing to take from the weekend is the performance of Jordan Montgomery.  He had one of the most impressive freshman pitching appearances in recent memory.  If he can replicate that, or something close to it, on a weekly basis, we have found a third weekend starter and taken a big load off the bullpen.  That is the kind of thing that could produce immeasurable dividends as the season continues.

Stars of the Series…Adam Matthews…4-9, 2B, 2 RBI…Jordan Montgomery…8 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 7 K, 0 BB…Colby Holmes…W, 7 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 6 K, 0 BB…Evan Beal…S, 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 K...

This and That...South Carolina improves to 23-9 overall and 5-7 in conference….Errors: UT 4, SC 2…LOB: UT 15, SC 32…Hits: UT 17, SC 19...DP: UT 0, SC 2…

Up Next...South Carolina continues their conference home stand with Mississippi State this weekend.  First pitches are scheduled for Friday at 7, Saturday at 4 and Sunday at 1:30.

Get more great South Carolina analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.