Jack Wynkoop knew his first outing for South Carolina was not indicative of the way he could pitch. Coach Chad Holbrook knew it as well. That was one of the reasons the freshman was a candidate to be a weekend starter after fall camp and preseason practice.
Wynkoop threw four pitches in his debut against Liberty and walked the only batter he faced. After not pitching over the weekend series with Albany, the lanky left-hander had a much better outing Tuesday, pitching 5 1/3 solid innings to lift No. 7 South Carolina to a a 5-2 victory against Furman damp Carolina Stadium.
“Wynkoop does everything coach (Jerry) Meyers tells him to do,” Holbrook said. “He throws strikes, changes speeds, has a great pick-off move, which helped him today, and a good change-up that kept them off-balance a little bit. He has enough velocity to pitch inside. The four pitches against Liberty weren’t the most encouraging but, once he got out of the gate (against Furman) with the first out, he was fine. That’s why he was in the conversation to be a weekend starter.”
The Virginia Beach, Va., native allowed five hits with two strikeouts and no walks before departing with runners on second and third with one out in the sixth inning. He threw 39 of his 55 pitches for strikes.
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“I think people would describe me as a strike-thrower,” Wynkoop said. “I was trying to stay over the plate and let my defense work behind me. We have a great defense.”
Evan Beal got the final two outs in the sixth on a strike out and fly ball to center to get out of the frame unscathed.
The effort of Wynkoop, Beal and Tyler Webb, who came on in the ninth to shut down a Furman (5-2) rally and earn his third save, was a bright spot for Holbrook. Joel Seddon was charged with the two ninth-inning runs but Holbrook was pleased with the way he threw the ball.
Beal retired all eight batters he faced.
“I thought we pitched well,” Holbrook said. “We threw the ball well against a decent hitting team. Furman came in hitting .299 as a team. They have some guys that you have to be very careful how you pitch to them. I thought it was a promising outing by our guys.”
The defense behind the pitching was charged with one error — a throwing miscue by Max Schrock, who was making his first start at shortstop in place of a hobbled Joey Pankake — but made several nice plays. Chase Vergason had a couple of diving stops at third base and DC Arendas made a couple of plays deep in the hole at shortstop. Furman had a chance to jump on top first in the third inning but left fielder Graham Saiko threw Jordan Simpson out at the plate to end the inning. Wynkoop also picked off a runner in the third inning.
“That’s one thing that makes you 100 percent comfortable out there,” Beal said. “That contributes to you being able to throw any pitch in any count.”
South Carolina (6-1) pushed across runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to provide the offense. Erik Payne drove in the first run with a ground out to third with the bases loaded. Furman third baseman Chris Ohmstede stepped on the bag at third for the force out but his throw across the diamond was wide and allowed Max Schrock and LB Dantzler to come around to score on the play.
Grayson Greiner added a RBI single that scored Payne.
South Carolina added a single run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Graham Saiko and closed out the scoring with a RBI triple by TJ Costen in the seventh.
“I was pleased with my team’s effort,” Holbrook said. “I thought they were very focused and played well. It was a great win for us. I thought we had some good at-bats, played great defense.”
South Carolina will begin a three-game set with Clemson on Friday night with a single game at Doug Kingsmore Stadium that will begin at 6:30. The teams will play at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Flour Field in Greenville before wrapping up the series with a 3 p.m. contest Sunday at Carolina Stadium.
Note: Pankake missed the game with a hip-flexor injury but could have played if needed, according to Holbrook. He is expected to play against Clemson.