South Carolina has won three one-run games against Presbyterian over the previous five seasons, and it looked as if the Gamecocks would stick with that winning formula Tuesday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
But Kyle Martin blasted a three-run homer in the seventh inning off PC reliever Trey Hayes to give the fifth-ranked Gamecocks some breathing room on the way to a 4-0 victory. The home run followed a pair of two-out walks and made a winner of freshman reliever Josh Reagan, who threw 21/3 scoreless innings.
“Every time we play PC, it seems like a pitch here, a pitch there, and it could go either way. That was the case today,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said.
The Gamecocks improved to 4-0, while Presbyterian fell to 2-1.
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Martin, the junior first baseman, continued his hot-hitting ways to start the season. He’s now batting .692 with one home run and seven RBIs. He had two hits along with Connor Bright and Elliott Caldwell for USC’s only six hits.
“I’m just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere, maybe put it in a gap and score another run or two,” Martin said. “He ended up leaving a changeup high, and I ended up getting a good piece of it and got it up in the wind.”
Holbrook is thrilled by Martin’s emergence as the team’s cleanup hitter in place of departed slugger LB Dantzler.
“He has some confidence going. He’s strong. He has hit since we came back in August, and he hasn’t stopped. I hope he doesn’t. The fact that he knows he’s going to be in there every day gives him a sense of calm,” Holbrook said. “He’s a good baseball player, and I’m glad he’s playing the way he’s capable of playing. He’s a tough out.”
Holbrook also liked how his three pitchers, starter Curt Britt, Reagan, and reliever Cody Mincey, combined to throw the seven-hit shutout in a competitive game that didn’t resemble the three blowout wins of Bucknell at all.
“We got some new guys to put in tight situations, and we need to see how they react,” he said. “That’s why it was good to see Josh and Cody pitch the way they pitched with the game on the line. We hadn’t seen that yet.”
Reagan, the former Lexington High standout, didn’t worry about the situation when he entered. He was simply determined to get the job done.
“That’s the only way I’m effective, if I go in and out, throw strikes and throw my changeup effectively,” Reagan said. “Whether you’re pitching with 15 runs on the board or in a 0-0 ballgame, you still want to pitch with a demeanor and pitch with confidence. That’s what I did.”
USC broke the scoreless tie in the sixth inning when Bright drilled a double off the top of the left-field wall to score Grayson Greiner, who had walked. It could have been a two-run double, but Martin was thrown out to start the inning attempting to stretch a single into a double.
Britt, the sophomore right-hander, and PC left-hander Brian Kehner (0-1) matched scoreless frames into the sixth inning. Both pitched out of jams several times to keep the game close. Britt tossed 5 1/3 innings, allowing just five hits and a pair of walks while striking out three. Kehner pitched 5 2.3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and three walks while striking out six.
“Give the kid credit. He stuffed us there for 5 2/3 innings, and we were lucky to get a big hit off Connor Bright’s bat,” Holbrook said. “To get that first run kind of let the air out of our dugout a little bit, and we relaxed and played the rest of the way.”
The Gamecocks played errorless baseball for the third time in four games and kept their momentum going as they prepare to face Eastern Kentucky in a home weekend series.
“It’s early in the season so we’re still trying to build confidence, get everything situated and keep everything moving forward,” Martin said.