For the second time in as many days, South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said after a big win that the baseball gods were on his team’s side for a day.
It didn’t hurt to have freshman lefty Jack Wynkoop (6-2) and speedy sophomore center fielder Tanner English to help his No. 15 Gamecocks (33-12, 13-8 SEC) secure a series win against No. 2 LSU (39-6, 16-5) with a 4-0 shutout on Sunday.
Wynkoop fired seven shutout innings against an LSU offense that came into the series with the second-best scoring offense in the conference. He gave up five hits and did not allow a runner to get past second base.
“He threw well, he threw very well, that’s an understatement,” Holbrook said. “For our pitchers to keep that offensive team to no runs in the last 18 innings an incredible performance by our guys.”
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Wynkoop’s performance came on the heels of last Sunday’s standout effort against Kentucky, when he limited the Wildcats to one run in eight innings. The key to both efforts — control.
The freshman needed 72 pitches to get through seven innings against the aggressive LSU hitters.
“I just tried to build upon what I did last weekend,” Wynkoop said. “Just throw all my pitches for strikes and hit my spots. That’s really all you can do.”
Unlike the previous night, when starter Jordan Montgomery worked his way into and out of jams, Wynkoop kept the basepaths clear. He did not walk a batter, and each of the five hits he allowed came in separate innings.
Wynkoop and the South Carolina pitchers got help from the defense, which played error-free baseball for the second night in a row and turned in a couple of spectacular plays.
None was better than English’s play in the eighth inning. Wynkoop had just left the game, and LSU had its best threat to score.
Speedy Mark Laird singled and was ready to take off when LSU’s leadoff hitter Sean McMullen hit a fading liner into the left-center field gap. But a streaking English left his feet for a diving stab, keeping Laird at first and killing a potential rally.
“Tanner English was phenomenal all weekend long,” Holbrook said. “That play he made was as good as it gets.”
Wynkoop got all the production he would need from his offense in the first inning.
The Gamecocks tagged LSU starter Kurt McCune for two runs and four hits in the opening frame. Several of the hits either glanced off a diving LSU glove or skipped over one.
Chase Vergason hit a one-out triple that slipped under the glove of diving LSU right fielder Jared Foster and rolled to the wall. LB Dantzler knocked him home when his sharp liner bounced off LSU first baseman Mason Katz’s diving glove and rolled into foul territory. Dantzler scored on the next play when Max Schrock’s grounder was out of the reach of a diving JaCoby Jones at second base.
“We played our tails off today,” Holbrook said. “We had some good fortune too. They hit some balls on the nose that we caught, we had some fall in. The baseball gods were with us today.”
Left-handers Adam Westmoreland and Webb teamed up to preserve the shutout. It was the first time LSU had been blanked in more than a year — April 6 of last season against Florida.
“They have a terrific team, a team that could win the national championship,” Holbrook said. “We feel very fortunate to come down here and win two games.”