Three weeks ago, Colby Holmes was SEC Pitcher of the Week for his seven-inning stint against Tennessee.
While his effort Saturday night in No. 2 South Carolina’s 10-2 victory against Auburn might not earn him another honor, the sophomore right-hander was more than sharp enough in the longest outing of his career.
“I really felt a few things in the game came up big,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.
“In the second, third and fourth, the lead off guy got on and Colby was teetering a little bit there, but he settled in and had three good frames after that.”
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The Gamecocks (34-8, 16-4) captured their 11th consecutive series win and kept pace with Vanderbilt and Florida in the SEC East. It also marked the 12th consecutive USC series victory against Auburn.
The only two runs Holmes allowed came on solo home runs in the fourth and eighth innings. After Kevin Patterson’s solo shot to right field in the fourth, Holmes retired the next 11 batters before a Just Fradejas home run glanced off Jake Williams’ glove in left.
“I think he might have been missing a little bit in the zone or out of the zone,” Tanner said. “His fastball was pretty good. He threw his slider for strikes, curveball and changeup. He had four pitches going and he was able to get some swings and misses in key situations.”
Holmes faced a bases-loaded jam in the third inning after Tanner elected to intentionally walk Casey McElroy. Holmes got Zach Alvord to ground sharply to third and Adrian Morales stepped on the bag before throwing to first for the double play.
“I thought the key situation was when we walked (McElroy),” Tanner said. “It was early in the game, and I don’t do that very often. We were able to get a double play to get out of it and that was a big play.”
Tyler Webb pitched the final 12/3 innings to close the game.
Holmes struck out the side in the seventh to tie his career-high with seven strikeouts. He scattered four hits over 71/3 innings with three walks in a 91-pitch outing. He improved to 4-1 after getting a loss and a no-decision since his performance against the Vols.
“I really focused on throwing strikes and letting my off-speed (pitches) work,” Holmes said.
South Carolina’s offense gave him plenty of support with two big innings. They scratched first on a sacrifice fly by Adrian Morales in the second inning that scored Brady Thomas.
After Patterson tied the score in the top of the fourth, the Gamecocks answered with three runs in the bottom half.
Thomas and Williams got things started with a walk and single. Morales sacrificed them over before Evan Marzilli delivered a RBI single to left.
Marzilli has three hits in the series and finished with two RBIs as he returned to the lineup after missing two games with an irregular heartbeat.
“I feel a lot more comfortable at the plate,” Marzilli said.
Robert Beary was hit by a pitch to load the bases for DeSean Anderson. The freshman hit a sharp grounder to third that was bobbled for an error to allow Williams to score. Peter Mooney drove in the final run by getting hit by a pitch from reliever Zach Blatt.
The Gamecocks broke it open with six runs in the seventh inning. The key blows were a RBI single from Thomas and a two-run double by Robert Beary. Seven of the nine runs came from the bottom four batters in the lineup with Morales, Marzilli and Beary leading the way with two RBIs apiece.
The Gamecocks go for the sweep at 3:00 p.m. Sunday with freshman Forrest Koumas (4-0 2.85) going against Tigers.
Note: Jackie Bradley Jr. was in the South Carolina dugout after having successful surgery on his left wrist on Friday. He had his left-arm in a sling.
Ray Tanner postgame
Colby Holmes, Jake Williams and Evan Marzilli postgame