South Carolina’s recent mastery of Clemson on the baseball field continued Friday night. Jordan Montgomery made sure of that.
The sophomore left-hander, who also defeated Clemson in the NCAA regional last season in Columbia, threw eight strong innings in the 6-0 victory at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. He allowed three hits and two walks while striking out a career-high nine batters.
“Jordan has got a great changeup, and he was able to pitch inside. His velocity on his fastball was very good,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “He felt good. He had better command tonight than he had in his previous two starts this season. When he’s throwing strike one, and he’s ahead in the count, he’s awfully tough.”
With the win, the No. 7 Gamecocks (7-1) defeated the Tigers (5-3) for the 10th time in 14 meetings dating to the start of the 2010 season, when South Carolina began its three-season run to the College World Series finals. But Holbrook doesn’t care about the past. He cares about the future.
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“It’ll be a dogfight tomorrow, and it’ll be a dogfight Sunday,” he said. “It feels good because we played a clean game, and we beat a really, really good team and a really, really good pitcher.”
Montgomery (3-0) outdueled Clemson sophomore right-hander Daniel Gossett (1-1), who gave up one earned run in 61/3 innings. Montgomery showed his fortitude in the seventh when he gave up a double and walk to start the inning before getting three consecutive flyouts to end the threat.
“He’s an unflappable kid,” Holbrook said. “He doesn’t mind the tight moments. He doesn’t mind pitching with runners in scoring position. He’s a heck of a competitor. The bigger the situation, the better he tends to pitch.”
Montgomery, who lowered his ERA to 0.95, threw 113 pitches and kept the Tigers off-balance on every one of them.
“I got my cutter over, and I was spotting up my fastball pretty well in-and-out,” he said. “I was mixing a changeup in every now and then. I was just throwing my game.”
The teams will play the second game of the series Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fluor Field in Greenville. USC senior right-hander Colby Holmes (1-0) will face Clemson freshman right-hander Clate Schmidt (1-0).
South Carolina broke a scoreless tie with a single run in the fifth inning. Brison Celek and Grayson Greiner started things with consecutive singles off Gossett. After a sacrifice bunt, Tanner English hit a soft ground ball to shortstop. When the throw went to first base, Shon Carson, who was pinch-running for Celek, took off for the plate and slid under the tag in a close play on the return throw home.
“That was total instinct on his part,” Holbrook said of Carson.
The Gamecocks, who have won 19-of-25 against the Tigers dating to the start of the 2007 season, busted out for three runs in the seventh inning, aided by left-fielder Shane Kennedy’s dropped fly ball and three walks. Chase Vergason’s bases-loaded walk brought home one run, while Max Schrock’s sacrifice fly and LB Dantzler’s RBI single scored the other two.
“We had a great game going through six (innings), and we gave up five unearned runs and that’s going to hurt you,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “We had been playing really good defense, but we hurt ourselves a couple of times tonight.”
It wouldn’t be a USC and Clemson game if there weren’t some controversy. In the bottom of the fifth with two outs, Clemson’s Garrett Boulware hit a deep fly ball to left-field that bounded off the fence and back into play. Boulware tried to stretch it into a triple, but left-fielder Graham Saiko threw him out. Clemson coach Jack Leggett argued to no avail that the ball had cleared the fence.
“I felt it hit my glove, and I’m pretty sure my glove hit the plastic on top of the fence,” Saiko said. “Like coach says, never give up on the play. I just saw the ball and saw the guy rounding second. I threw it as hard as I could into third, and luckily I made a good throw.”
The Gamecocks closed their scoring with a pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning, thanks to a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt that scored a run. Saiko then added a sacrifice fly by Saiko. Leggett tried to keep the loss in perspective.
“We’ve got to put it behind us. It’s just one game. Unfortunately, you have to score to win,” Leggett said. “We’re trying to play good baseball. We’ll be fine. We’ve got a lot of season left.”
The low-key Montgomery wasn’t about to get overly excited about another USC win.
“It’s always good to get a series off on a start like this. I was just trying to help my team out,” Montgomery said. “Clemson’s a good team, and they have a great program. We just come out and play.”