After starting last week with a pair of losses, one to Gardner-Webb and one to LSU, South Carolina finished it with a pair of important wins against the Tigers.
The victories not only bolstered USC’s spot in the conference standings, they also gave the Gamecocks (33-12, 13-8 SEC) some much-needed momentum as they get ready to host No. 2 Vanderbilt (39-6, 19-2 SEC) this weekend.
Although USC remained at No. 15 in the Baseball America Top 25, its performance in Baton Rouge shows the team should once again be a factor in NCAA tournament play.
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Winning a series on the road against a powerhouse like LSU requires a few things to fall in place. That’s what happened Saturday and Sunday, when the Gamecocks made no errors and walked only one batter. Then there were the timely hits that provided just enough breathing room, with Tanner English’s Saturday night RBI triple in the ninth inning topping the list.
It was the first series win for USC against the Tigers since the 2007 season, with Saturday’s win snapping LSU’s 20-game home winning streak before the largest actual attendance in Alex Box Stadium history.
The freshman left-hander solidified his weekend rotation slot against Kentucky a week ago, but his performance Sunday against LSU was eye-opening. Pitching in the rubber game of the series, he worked seven scoreless innings in the 4-0 victory. Wynkoop allowed just five hits with no walks while throwing only 71 pitches. The efficient outing upped his record to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.66.
Snared by the Webb
As good as the Gamecocks looked at LSU, they looked just the opposite against Gardner-Webb. The pitchers allowed 15 hits, walked two and hit one. The defense made four errors that led to four unearned runs. The hitters left 10 men on base. The team allowed a 6-4 lead after seven innings to slip away.
Senior left-hander Tyler Webb’s arm appears to be healthy after missing the Florida series due to elbow soreness. His two saves against LSU ran his season total to 14. His 2 1/3 scoreless innings lowered his ERA to 0.59 ERA in 21 appearances over 30 1/3 innings. He has compiled 44 strikeouts to only seven walks. USC coach Chad Holbrook calls him his MVP and an All-American.
Sophomore center fielder Tanner English lifted the Gamecocks offensively and defensively against the Tigers. He had two triples and two runs scored in the series, while also recording 18 putouts, including a sensational eighth-inning catch Sunday, and an assist. He’s now hitting .292 with a .420 on-base percentage, the second-best on the team.
Senior left-hander Nolan Belcher walked four batters in 5 2/3 innings in Friday’s loss to LSU after walking just five in his first 74 innings on the season.
JUST THE FACTS
... After hitting .364 (4-for-11) over the weekend, senior first baseman LB Dantzler, who has an eight-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 22 straight games, ranks third in the SEC in home runs (12) and slugging percentage (.658), tied for third in doubles (13), tied for fourth in walks (28), fifth in RBIs (44), seventh in on-base percentage (.447) and 12th in batting average (.342).
... Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner caught all 26 innings against LSU and did not allow a stolen base or an attempt.
... The Gamecocks are 28-2 on the season when leading after six innings.
... USC pitchers compiled a 2.08 ERA for the weekend and held LSU, the conference’s second-best scoring team, to only seven runs on 30 hits and five walks.
... Friday: Vanderbilt, Carolina Stadium, 7 p.m. (SportSouth)
... Saturday: Vanderbilt, Carolina Stadium, Noon (SportSouth)
... Sunday: Vanderbilt, Carolina Stadium, 1 p.m. (CSS)