South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook came away from the Gamecocks’ 9-5 victory against Rider on Saturday a little less pleased with his team than he had been through the first 13 games this season.
South Carolina was twice thrown out at third base, failed to execute sacrifice bunts on more than one occasion and watched as starting pitcher Colby Holmes struggled for the second consecutive week. The most pleasing thing for Holbrook was the outing by reliever Adam Westmoreland and the fact that they played far from their best but still managed a win.
“Base running, bunts, hit-and-runs, reading balls in the dirt,” Holbrook rattled off when asked what he wasn’t pleased with. “It wasn’t the way South Carolina is supposed to play. We did do some good things. Dante (Rosenberg) was good behind the plate and executed a hit-and-run. I don’t want to sit up here and bellyache and complain. We got 13 hits, but the way we played today will get us beat in a lot of games in our league. Some of those things are inexcusable, but it’s things we can work on. I was glad to get the win. The only thing I felt great about today was Adam Westmoreland saved our bullpen.”
Westmoreland, a senior from Brookland-Cayce, earned his first career save by pitching the final 3 2/3 innings without allowing a hit. He struck out three, walked one and hit one batter.
He has allowed one earned run in 11 innings.
“He pitched great,” Holbrook said. “He’ll have an expanded role, probably. He pitched well against Clemson and he pitched well (Saturday). He’s an older guy, experienced, who has good stuff. He’s got a real confidence going and that’s very, very important.”
The thing that might have Holbrook baffled more than anything is the performance by Holmes. The senior has struggled mightily in his past two outings — including the 4 1/3 innings he pitched against the Broncs.
Holmes allowed four runs — three earned — on five hits. He walked four and struck four but he pitched up in the zone and didn’t have great command. The four walks tied his career-high.
“I’ll be the first to say, I’m concerned with how Colby is throwing. We need to have to guys ready to step up, and it appears Adam is one of those guys,” Holbrook said. “Colby is a guy that has to live at the knees, change speeds and throw all his pitches for strikes. Right now, he’s pitching up in the zone and the ball flattens out on him. When he pitches on a downhill plane, he’s as good as anybody. He was flat and four walks in 4 1/3 innings is not appealing, either.”
Even though Holbrook was concerned with the lackluster performance, he believes Holmes will recover and be a solid contributor.
“Colby has been around the block,” Holbrook said. “He’ll bounce back. We need him, but he has to pitch better.”
Joel Seddon earned his first win of the season by pitching an inning in relief of Holmes. He allowed a run on one hit.
The Gamecocks (12-2) had eight of their nine starters collect a hit, and six of those drove in at least one run. Connor Bright made the start in right field and had two hits and two RBIs, including his first career home run.
“It was a first-pitch fastball and was about letter high and I got it out,” Bright said. “The other players have been ragging me because they say I’m only a singles hitter so I was happy to get one out of there.”
Shon Carson made his first start in the field when he replaced the injured Tanner English in center. English missed his second game in a row with an injured shoulder and is not expected to play today in the series finale. Carson collected two hits — one a bunt single between the pitcher and first baseman and the other a swinging bunt that was fielded by the pitcher but he was able to beat the throw to first.
“Shon Carson gave us a little spark,” Holbrook said. “I’ve been saying it all year that if you’re fast and make contact you will have success. Some of our fast guys struggle with making contact sometimes so we have to learn how to bunt a little bit better. I have to coach them how to do those things. The more he gets out there, the better he’ll be.”
Joey Pankake hit his third home run in four games. Chase Vergason drove in two runs and had two hits in the 13-hit attack.
The teams will play the final game of the series Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Nolan Belcher (2-1, 2-18 ERA) will pitch for the Gamecocks against Rider’s Mike Murphy (1-1, 8.68).