South Carolina’s shutout streak might have ended after five games and 52 innings, but the Gamecocks extended their season-opening winning streak to eight games.
Rallying from a five-run deficit behind the big bat of junior catcher Grayson Greiner, third-ranked USC defeated No. 11 Clemson 9-6 Friday night before a sellout crowd at Carolina Stadium.
“I was really, really proud of my team. They responded the right way,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “We talk about handling adversity all the time, and they were tested tonight.”
With his team trailing 6-1 in the fifth inning, Greiner blasted a grand slam over the left-field wall on a 2-0 fastball from Clemson starter Daniel Gossett. The following inning, after an RBI fielder’s choice by Connor Bright, Greiner brought home the go-ahead run with an infield single for a 7-6 lead.
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“He’s the heart and soul of our team. There’s not anybody I’d trade for Grayson Greiner, with the way he handles our pitching staff,” Holbrook said. “You want him up in a big spot. He really is a gifted baseball player. He responded tonight. That was an incredible swing of the bat.”
With three hits on the night, Greiner raised his average to .379 to go with a team-high three home runs and 15 RBIs. As a team captain, he knew the veterans needed to make something happen. His home run supplied that something.
“You could feel a little bit of energy back in the crowd, and that was kind of a turning point momentum-wise,” Greiner said. “Once we got the big hit, everyone in the dugout felt we could win it.”
The teams play Saturday at 2 p.m. at Greenville’s Fluor Field. USC left-hander Jack Wynkoop will face Clemson left-hander Matthew Crownover. The Tigers, who have lost six straight games at Carolina Stadium, will be the home team.
“We’ll be ready to play. We’ve just got to bounce back,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “We have a lot of heartache during the course of the year every year. There are some good moments and some tough moments. This was a tough moment for us.”
The Gamecocks (8-0) have won 11 of the past 14 games against the rival Tigers (6-2) dating back to the 2010 College World Series. Junior center fielder Tanner English added a solo home run in the eighth to give the Gamecocks some cushion.
The comeback made a winner of reliever Cody Mincey (1-0), who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings before giving way to closer Joel Seddon with a pair of runners on base. The junior registered three quick outs to record his second save.
“The nerves were rolling a little bit,” Mincey said. “I was just trying to throw strikes and gets out and get us back in the dugout so we could get some more hits and put some runs on the board.”
The Tigers jumped out to a 5-1 lead with four runs in the fourth inning off USC starter Jordan Montgomery. The big blows were Tyler Krieger’s bases-loaded double and Garrett Boulware’s RBI double on consecutive at-bats. They added another run in the fifth on Montgomery’s error on a throw to third trying to cut down a runner on a sacrifice bunt.
But after the error left runners on second and third with no outs, Montgomery struck out the side to keep the game from getting away.
“A lot of guys would crumble in that situation. They wouldn’t want to be out there,” Greiner said. “That just shows Jordan’s character.”
And Montgomery had faith in his teammates to put together a comeback.
“That’s the thing about our team. We’re definitely never going to give up, especially against Clemson,” Montgomery said. “I knew any of the hitters was going to step up and give us a big at-bat. When Grayson was up, everybody had the feeling that was going to happen.”
USC took a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a couple of Clemson miscues. Max Schrock reached safely when Boulware, the catcher, couldn’t handle a little nubber out in front of home plate. After a wild pitch by Gossett sent Schrock to second, Kyle Martin delivered a two-out RBI single to center.
The Tigers tied the game at 1-1 in the second inning on Weston Wilson’s two-out RBI single that scored Steven Duggar, who led off the inning with a single. That snapped USC’s streak of scoreless innings at 52 and ended Montgomery’s scoreless streak dating back to last season at 34 2/3 innings.