With wins on consecutive days against Clemson, the South Carolina baseball team clinched this season’s series against its top rival. And for the second day in a row, the Gamecocks did it with key contributions from veterans and newcomers.
In the 9-6 victory Saturday afternoon before a sold-out Carolina Stadium crowd, senior outfielder Adam Matthews and freshman pitcher Evan Beal gave the fans a mix of the old and the new.
Matthews collected a pair of hits, including a three-run homer in the third inning that provided the eventual margin of victory, while Beal tossed four effective innings in relief to keep the Tigers from mounting a comeback.
Beal, a right-hander from Fairfax Station, Va., and eighth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals, liked being able to step in and show what he could do in a big situation. After allowing three hits and striking out five, he picked up his first career win.
“You get the adrenaline pumping and you feel good about yourself,” Beal said. “Whether you’re a senior or a freshman on this club, it doesn’t really matter. We’re all contributing to a common goal to win a game.”
The teams play the final game of the series at 2 p.m. today at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. USC right-hander Colby Holmes will face Clemson right-hander Kevin Pohle.
The third-ranked Gamecocks improved to 9-0 on the season — and extended to 19 a winning streak that dates to last season — while the No. 15 Tigers fell to 4-4. USC has won 16 of the past 22 games between the two dating to the start of the 2007 season.
Matthews, who turned down a pro offer from the Baltimore Orioles last summer, hit his blast in the third inning to give USC a 6-2 lead that knocked Clemson starter Dominic Leone (2-1) out of the game. Matthews’ first homer of the season, which sailed over the center-field fence, followed a walk to Kyle Martin and infield single by Joey Pankake. After starting the season with a .174 average in the first eight games, Matthews was thrilled to come up big.
“It’s finally coming together,” he said. “I just continued to stay positive. This is a humbling game, so you’ve got to take the good with the bad and the bad with the good. It’s just showing up every day, trying to get better and making small adjustments.”
That the payoff came against Clemson meant even more.
“I’ve been a part of this rivalry for four years,” he added. “It’s intense, it’s a great atmosphere and it’s great college baseball.”
More important, he’s excited how the team is blending together, especially with so many newcomers contributing.
“Those guys have really come around,” Matthews said. “They’ve gained some experience, especially this Clemson series. They get to see what it’s like to play in front of a bunch of fans and experience something they might not have done before.”
Third baseman LB Dantzler, a junior college transfer, hit his team-leading third home run, a solo shot in the second for USC’s first run. Freshman designated hitter Kyle Martin banged out a pair of hits. Freshman outfielder Tanner English had a pair of hits and an RBI.
But the veterans did their part, too. First baseman Christian Walker doubled in a run, and left-hander Nolan Belcher recorded the final out of the game for his second consecutive save. But it all boiled down to Beal making his pitches — using a fastball, slider and curve — to keep Clemson from mounting a serious charge.
“We expected him to make an impact for us as a freshman, but it would be a little bit tough for me to say I expected him to do what he did today against a team as good as Clemson,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “He went out there in a very difficult situation and got eight or nine in a row. He gave us a chance to keep the game where it was, and that was impressive. He had pretty good poise out there.”
USC starter Matt Price couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning, which made Beal’s emergence more important.
Clemson coach Jack Leggett saluted Beal’s breaking pitches, but he believed his team’s shaky pitching proved the difference in allowing six early runs.
“We just didn’t pitch very well in the second and third innings and let the game slide away from us,” Leggett said.
Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer had an RBI double in the fifth and a two-run homer in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to get the Tigers back in the game. Senior shortstop Jason Stolz, who had a two-run single in the second inning, also cited Clemson’s failure to get enough key hits.
“The key thing in these series is they’re so emotional and so intense that you’ve got to take advantage of every time you get runners on base,” Stolz said “The team that comes out on top is the one with the guys who get hits in clutch situations. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get enough of those today. We got behind and weren’t able to claw back in.”
Stolz hopes his team can get enough hits to salvage a win in today’s finale to avoid a sweep. Beal, meanwhile, hopes the USC pitching can keep doing what it has done for the past two days.
“They’ve got good hitters, and we know it,” Beal said. “But if we fill up the zone and play our game, we know we can win.”
|Thomas Brittle cf||2||1||0||0||2||1||4||0||0|
|Steve Wilkerson 2b||5||1||0||0||0||1||3||1||3|
|Richie Shaffer 3b||5||2||2||3||0||1||0||2||0|
|Phil Pohl c||4||1||1||1||1||1||8||0||0|
|Brad Felder rf||5||1||1||0||0||1||1||0||1|
|Garrett Boulware lf||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Dominic Attanasio dh||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Jay Baum ph||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||2|
|Joe Costigan ph||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jason Stolz ss||4||0||1||2||0||2||0||3||1|
|Jon McGibbon 1b||4||0||1||0||0||1||8||0||1|
|Dominic Leone p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Jonathan Meyer p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Patrick Andrews p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Mike Kent p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Marzilli cf||4||0||0||0||1||1||2||0||1|
|Tanner English lf||4||1||2||1||0||1||1||0||2|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||1||1||1||0||1||7||1||3|
|LB Dantzler 3b||5||1||2||1||0||1||2||2||0|
|Kyle Martin dh||4||2||2||0||1||2||0||0||1|
|Joey Pankake ss||4||2||1||1||1||1||1||2||0|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||2||2||3||0||0||1||0||3|
|Dante Rosenberg c||4||0||1||1||0||1||10||1||0|
|Chase Vergason 2b||2||0||0||0||1||0||2||2||0|
|Matt Price p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyler Webb p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Beal p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Nolan Belcher p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
E - WILKERSON(2); Pankake 2(5). LOB - CU 8; S. Carolina 10. 2B - SHAFFER(4); FELDER(1); Walker(1); Martin(2). HR - SHAFFER(3); Dantzler(3); Matthews(1). HBP - BRITTLE; English; Walker; Vergason. SH - Matthews(3). SB - English(1).
|Dominic Leone L,2-1||2.1||4||6||6||3||2||0||0||2||0||10||16||3||2||59|
|Evan Beal W,1-0||4.0||3||2||2||1||5||1||0||0||0||15||16||2||5||72|
|Nolan Belcher S,2||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||1||2|
Win - Beal (1-0). Loss - LEONE (2-1). Save - Belcher (2). WP - Price(1); Beal(1). HBP - by LEONE (Vergason); by LEONE (English); by Price (BRITTLE); by MEYER (Walker). Pitches/strikes: LEONE 59/32; MEYER 62/43; ANDREWS 29/21; KENT 3/3; Price 101/67; Webb 6/5; Beal 72/46; Belcher 2/2.
Umpires - HP: Tony Walsh 1B: Randy Harvey 2B: Jack Cox 3B: A.J. Lostaglio
Start: 2:48 pm