After watching his team sludge through six innings against Wofford on Wednesday night, Chad Holbrook did what he called his best “Ray Tanner” impersonation and tried to light a fire under his team.
He can't recall exactly what words he used but they worked to perfection as Joey Pankake's two-run home run ignited a six-run outburst in the seventh inning and carried the Gamecocks to a 9-3 victory over the Terriers in front of 7,193 fans at Carolina Stadium.
“It was a good win for our team,” Holbrook said. “We were sluggish. The first six innings of the game, we missed some opportunities and I wasn't a very happy camper. Joey got the big hit that ignited everybody and got some momentum going in our dugout.”
Wofford had taken a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth on a throwing error by Colby Holmes that allowed a runner to come around from first and score.
South Carolina (34-14) answered that run in the bottom half of the inning when Sean Sullivan was hit by a pitch from Will Stillman with the bases loaded. That scored pinch-runner Shon Carson — who came in for an injured LB Dantzler — before Tanner English flew out to center to leaves the bases loaded.
Holbrook delivered his fiery speech before the Gamecocks’ next at-bat, and it was good enough to see the team bat around. After a Chase Vergason single, Pankake gave them the lead for good with a two-run home run to right field. It was his 10th home run and sparked the six-run inning.
“There was a little urgency in the dugout,” Pankake said. “We were down, it was getting late in the game and we knew we needed to put some runs on. Chase got on, I worked the at-bat (so) I guess I was the guy that kind of sparked the inning with a big hit.”
Connell Anderson, the fifth Wofford pitcher of the night, then allowed an RBI double to Grayson Greiner and threw two wild pitches to allow him to score. English closed the inning with a two-run single to push the lead to 8-3.
Greiner said the talking to was much-deserved.
“Coach gave us a pretty good uplift speech before that inning,” Greiner said. “We hadn't done much prior to that inning, and we got our best swings of the night in that inning. That kind of changed the game for us.”
Wofford (20-31) had jumped on top before many of the fans were settled in their seats.
USC starting pitcher Curt Britt struck out the lead-off batter before the Terriers strung together three straight singles to plate the first run on a hit by Seth Neely. James Plaisted followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 before Britt could get out of the frame with a pick-off play.
Britt had not pitched since April 13 against Florida and settled down to work two more scoreless innings. He allowed two runs on four hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
“Curt was OK,” Holbrook said. “He hadn't pitched in a long time, so asking him to be dominant was asking a little too much. He did have some good life on his fastball. He will continue to get better.”
Max Schrock, who was batting lead-off for the first time since March 16, hit his fifth home run of the season in the bottom of the first to trim the lead to 2-1. Vergason followed with a single, but that would be the only two hits Wofford starter Matthew Milburn would allow in four innings.
He retired 10 in a row at one point and seemed in control. The Gamecocks pounded out 10 hits and scored eight runs in the four innings after he left. Wofford used seven pitchers, and six of them pitched no more than an inning but five of those allowed at least one run.
“They had some good arms, and we struggled to hit them but we finally got to them in the end,” Pankake said.
Colby Holmes had his second straight solid performance out of the bullpen, and Adam Westmoreland pitched 1 2/3 innings to improve to 6-1.
... Dantzler left the game in the sixth inning with an dislocated left shoulder. He stumbled over the second base bag on a Greiner double and held his left arm as he made it to third base. The trainers were able to pop it back into place, but Holbrook said it was “iffy” if he would be back for the weekend series with Georgia. He said calling it “50-50” would be optimistic at this point.
... Dante Rosenberg returned to action after being out with a broken hamate bone in his wrist. He pinch-hit for Greiner in the eighth inning and caught the ninth. Connor Bright is still battling an injured shoulder as well and didn't play Wednesday night. He should be ready to play by Friday.