Since Matt Price moved to the starting rotation at the beginning of the season, he seemed to be struggling with the transition from being an All-American closer for South Carolina.
But the right-hander from Sumter seems to be settling into a groove. He pitched six strong innings — his longest outing of four starts this season — and South Carolina defeated Princeton 6-1 Saturday afternoon in front of 7,426 fans at Carolina Stadium.
“It’s feeling better every week,” Price said. “I know everybody wants to see me go longer (but) I know what I’m capable of and I feel good. Just keeping our team in the ball game is what I try and do.”
Price threw 101 pitches last week against Clemson, when he allowed four runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. But against Princeton, he threw 106 pitches in six innings, allowing a run on four hits.
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Ray Tanner has liked what he’s seen so far from Price, who lowered is ERA to 3.10
“There are still a lot of people thinking he’s not as good as a starter as he was coming out of the bullpen but he’s pretty good as a starter,” Tanner said. “He gives us a chance to win, and that’s the most important thing.”
He was dominant after the Tigers pushed across a run in the second inning to tie the game at one. Steve Harrington singled and Tyler Servais doubled with one out in the inning to put runners at second and third. Harrington scored on a ground out to Connor Bright at shortstop but Price got out of the inning with a fly ball to center.
Princeton (2-4) had two base runners against Price after the second. He allowed a two-out single in the third and a two-out walk in the fourth. Price retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced and the 106 pitches he threw were the most in his four starts.
Despite not allowing a hit against VMI in his first start, he allowed two runs in five innings after he hit three batters and walked three more. He pitched five scoreless innings in a 3-2 victory against Elon in his second start and allowed one hit in that game before getting roughed up a bit against Clemson last weekend.
But he mixed in his slider and breaking pitches with a fastball that was constantly in the low 90s to keep the Princeton hitters off balance.
“I thought he made some good pitches,” Tanner said. “He threw some fastballs up and out and, as a hitter, when you get a guy that is high 80s, low 90s that’s difficult. He threw some change-ups to lefties and a couple of curve balls. It’s hard to bunch hits when a guy can do that.”
Christian Walker has seen Price at his best the past two years when he saved 30 games to help the Gamecocks win back-to-back national championships. The junior first baseman believes Price is pitching just fine and will continue to give the team a chance to win.
In 13 games, USC (12-1) has allowed two or fewer runs 10 times. Price has started three of those games.
“I guess sometimes he’s not going as deep into games as he would like but he’s been pitching well,” Walker said. “He’s throwing a lot of strikes, pounding the zone and getting outs. Playing in the field behind him, that’s all you can really ask for.”
Walker did his part at the plate as he went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored. South Carolina took the lead for good when Walker and LB Dantzler singled in the fifth to put runners at the corners. Walker later scored on a passed ball.
Tanner said Walker came in early for some extra work in the cage and it seemed to pay off. He doubled in the gap in right-center field in the first inning to score Evan Marzilli and added two singles up the middle in later at-bats.
“Walker took some hacks and that was good to see,” Tanner said. “He’s been tentative early so it was nice to see him swing it good.”
Dante Rosenberg added another RBI and the Gamecocks took advantage of two Princeton errors to score two runs. South Carolina stranded 13 runners for the second consecutive game but Tanner was pleased with the approach his young team took.
The Gamecocks again started Bright and Erik Payne up the middle and they played their second error-free game. USC had 12 errors in the first 11 games.
“Connor and Erik have been pretty good there in the middle,” Tanner said. “They have a little rapport going and bounce around and make the routine plays, which is enough. If they do that, I’m fine with it. Are they going to be our guys going forward? I don’t know about that. They seem comfortable and are playing with some energy.”
The Gamecocks (12-1) will go for the series sweep at 1:30 p.m. Sunday with Colby Holmes ( 2-0, 1.26 ERA) going against the Tigers’ Matt Bowman (1-0, 4.50).
|Keller, Alec 2b||4||0||2||0||0||1||2||2||0|
|Bowman, Matt ss||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||2||0|
|Mishu, John cf||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Mulroy, Sam c||4||0||0||0||0||2||7||1||4|
|Albert, Ryan dh||4||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||0|
|Harrington, Steve rf||4||1||2||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Servais, Tyler 1b||3||0||1||0||1||1||6||1||0|
|Baird, Nate lf||4||0||0||1||0||1||3||0||2|
|Flink, Alex 3b||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||1|
|Ford, Mike p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Fagan, Michael p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Evan Marzilli cf||3||2||1||0||2||0||2||0||0|
|Tanner English lf||5||1||1||0||0||1||3||0||4|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||1||3||2||1||0||10||0||0|
|LB Dantzler 3b||4||0||1||0||1||0||1||1||1|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||0|
|Kyle Martin dh||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Brison Celek ph/dh||2||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Joey Pankake pr||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Sean Sullivan dh||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Connor Bright ss||5||0||1||0||0||3||0||3||4|
|Dante Rosenberg c||3||1||2||1||1||1||9||0||0|
|Grayson Greiner c||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Erik Payne 2b||3||0||2||0||0||1||0||6||1|
|Matt Price p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyler Webb p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Forrest Koumas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
E - Bowman(2); Mishu(1). LOB - PRIN 7; S. Carolina 13. 2B - Keller(2); Servais(1); Walker(2). SH - Payne(2). SB - Mishu(1); Marzilli(6). CS - Bright(1).
|Ford, Mike L,0-2||5.0||7||2||2||4||3||1||0||0||0||21||25||6||5||98|
|Matt Price W,2-0||6.0||4||1||1||1||6||0||0||0||0||22||23||4||8||106|
|Forrest Koumas S,3||1.1||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||5||5||2||1||18|
Win - Price (2-0). Loss - Ford (0-2). Save - Koumas (3). WP - Ford(1); Fagan(2). PB - Mulroy(2). Pitches/strikes: Ford 98/56; Fagan 61/35; Price 106/68; Webb 26/16; Koumas 18/12.
Umpires - HP: Richie Tallent 1B: Todd Drake 3B: Gary Swanson
Start: 4:01 pm