With four wins in five games last week, South Carolina continued its winning ways. Most importantly, the Gamecocks won their first SEC series of the season on the road against Missouri.
And while they piled up runs in midweek wins over USC Upstate and Davidson, they struggled to score them against Missouri with six in the three games. The Gamecocks (17-3) remained No. 5 in Baseball America’s Top 25 this week. Let’s take a quick look back at the highs and lows.
Beal and Belcher
... USC’s version of the Killer B’s continues to make life tough for opposing hitters. Senior left-hander Nolan Belcher (4-1, 1.25 ERA) has tossed 26 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, which included 8 1/3 in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Missouri. Once again, he didn’t walk a batter, a span that dates back to the opening weekend against Liberty. He has one walk on the season to go with 36 strikeouts.
... Sophomore right-hander Evan Beal (2-0, 0.56 ERA), who was making his second start in place of the injured Jordan Montgomery, was terrific once again. He gave up only one run on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings with one walk and a career-high 10 strikeouts in Friday’s 4-1 win. Those 10 strikeouts are the most by a USC pitcher this season.
Since taking part in that no-hitter against Albany, senior right-hander Colby Holmes has struggled in his three starts against Clemson, Rider and Missouri -- going 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA while allowing 16 hits and eight walks in 10 1/3 innings over that span. His spot in the weekend rotation will likely be re-evaluated this week.
... There’s nothing quite like having a dominating closer sitting in the bullpen. After losing Matt Price, the best closer in school history, to the MLB draft last summer, the Gamecocks haven’t skipped a beat. Senior left-hander Tyler Webb was perfect in collecting two saves against Missouri. He now has seven saves in 10 appearances this season while not giving up a run in 11 1/3 innings. He has allowed five hits and three walks while striking out 18 batters.
... The defense continues to perform more consistently, as evidenced by no errors in the Missouri series. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in fielding with a .981 percentage as a team, and their 14 errors are the fewest in the conference. USC has played 12 errorless games on the season.
The injury bug will not go away. Left-fielder Graham Saiko suffered a bone bruise and strained ligaments in his left wrist Friday trying to make a diving catch, which led him to sit out Saturday’s doubleheader. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, the injury isn’t as serious as first believed. USC coach Chad Holbrook hopes to have him back in the lineup this week. Holbrook also hopes center fielder Tanner English, who injured his right shoulder two weeks ago, is able to return to full-time play this week. And staff ace Jordan Montgomery remains out for at least one or two more weekends.
JUST THE FACTS
... After collecting 19 hits in 101 at-bats (.188) against Missouri, USC saw its team batting average fall from .305 to .287.
... South Carolina has allowed five runs or less in 18 of 20 games played this season. The Gamecocks are 16-2 when allowing five runs or less with a 16-0 record when leading after the sixth inning.
... Senior first baseman LB Dantzler continues to lead the team in the Triple Crown categories with a .362 batting average, six homers and 23 RBI.
... Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner hit his first homer of the season Friday. While he’s batting .236 with 10 RBI, his defense remains stellar. In 13 starts behind the plate, he has eight assists and no errors.
... The USC pitching staff has compiled a 2.08 ERA in 177 innings with 175 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .213 against the Gamecocks.
... Tuesday: at The Citadel, 7 p.m., Riley Park, Charleston
... Friday: Arkansas, 7:30 p.m. (CSS)
... Saturday: Arkansas, 3:15 p.m. (Fox Sports Carolinas/Fox Sports South)
... Sunday: Arkansas, 1:30 p.m.