Jack Wynkoop continued the masterful start for the South Carolina pitching staff when he combined with three relievers to throw a three-hit gem in a 2-0 victory against Eastern Kentucky in front of a sellout crowd at Carolina Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The sophomore allowed three hits, one walk and posted a career-best 10 strikeouts in his 71/3 innings of work. He allowed one base-runner to reach third and helped the Gamecocks record its fourth consecutive shutout, an deed not accomplished since 1972. The pitching staff extended its scoreless streak to 42 innings in the win.
“It’s a rare feat for sure,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “It’s incredible they’ve thrown that well. When they’ve gotten runners in scoring position, they bow their neck and compete. They’ve pitched their rear ends off, but let’s keep it in perspective that it’s been six games where they’ve pitched very, very well.”
Wynkoop is the only starting pitcher to allow a run thus far, but he kept the Colonels off-balance by mixing in four different pitches. He threw 90 pitches – 68 for strikes.
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“I was giving them a steady mix of pitches, trying to keep them off-balance,” Wynkoop said. “They’re pretty aggressive, so not letting them extend on fastballs was key.”
Holbrook had nothing but praise for the lanky left-hander.
“I think that is the best I’ve seen Jack Wynkoop throw since he’s been here,” Holbrook said. “We all know he threw a gem last year at LSU but today he had some pop on his fastball, a good change-up and threw all his pitches where he wanted too.”
Catcher Grayson Greiner has had the opportunity to be in the receiving end of these four straight shutouts. The Colonels (1-5) had multiple base runners in two innings, but when they did have someone in scoring position, Wynkoop got out of it.
“He kept everything down in the zone, kept their hitters off-balance,” Greiner said. “Kind of like Jordan (Montgomery) did (Friday), he made his best pitches in pressure-packed situations. He used the bottom of the zone and mixed all four of his pitches well.”
Cody Mincey, Vince Fiori and Joel Seddon closed out the shutout by not allowing a base-runner. Seddon earned his first save of the season by recording two strikeouts in the ninth.
The pitching staff had to be good since the Gamecocks struggled at the plate. Eastern Kentucky starter Tanner Perkins attacked USC (6-0) inside with his fastball, and the Gamecocks were unable to produce many solid swings. They ended up with 15 flyouts and stuck out three times as they were trying to take the pitches the other way inside of pulling them.
When they changed their attack, Greiner provided all the offense needed. Connor Bright doubled with one out in the sixth inning before Greiner belted his second home run of the season into the seats in left.
“He was attacking us inside and getting it on our hands,” Greiner said. “Right before that inning, coach Holbrook told us we had two options: We could keep trying to use the other side of the field or get up on top of the plate and yank one down the line since he was attacking us inside. I saw Connor first-pitch attack, and it worked for him, so I figured I would try the same thing.”
Holbrook is not concerned that his offense has produced 10 runs over the past three games after opening the season with 41 in three games against Bucknell.
“We’re a good offensive team,” Holbrook said. “I really believe that. We didn’t swing it well these past few games, but I think you’ll see that over the course of the season.”
South Carolina closes the three-game series with Eastern Kentucky on Sunday afternoon at 1:30. Wil Crowe (1-0, 0.00) will pitch for the Gamecocks, and the Colonels will counter with Myles Scott (0-1, 15.00).