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Cisco strong in his new role from bullpen

RALEIGH — South Carolina pitcher Mike Cisco had one thing on his mind when he entered Friday’s game against Charlotte — getting to the dugout.

After Charlotte’s Aaron Bray hit a three-run home run to cut USC’s lead to three, Cisco relieved Gamecocks’ starter Sam Dyson in an attempt to stop the damage.

Cisco did just that, striking out Cory Tilton and ending Charlotte’s most serious threat of the game.

“As soon as I stepped onto the mound, I was just trying to get us back into the dugout,” Cisco said. “With two outs and nobody on base, I just wanted us to get back at the plate so we could answer back.”

USC’s offense answered with five runs in the bottom of the eighth to ensure Cisco’s second save in as many opportunities.

Recording saves wasn’t something Cisco envisioned early in the season. After starting the season 4-0, the right-handed junior struggled in Southeastern Conference play. When his ERA skyrocketed to 4.98, he was moved to the bullpen.

Cisco has since allowed one run in four relief appearances.

“I have confidence in him and he’s a bulldog,” USC coach Ray Tanner said of Cisco. “We’re going to go with the guys we’ve pitched all year (out of the bullpen), and now Mike is down there to help us out even more.”

Cisco feels the hardest adjustment to his new role is the difference in the warmup routine.

“The biggest difference is being able to warm up as long as you need to,” he said. “The coaches tell me not to tell them I’m ready until I feel I’m actually ready. That’s been the biggest adjustment, but I’m getting used to it now.”

In the regional opener, Cisco pitched 2 Ð innings, his longest outing since his last start. That was against Florida on May 2, when he allowed eight hits and four runs in three innings.

Friday’s outing by Cisco can be valuable to Tanner, as he was only forced to use two pitchers in the postseason opener.

“From a pitching standpoint, you want to have as many guys available as you can because you never know what can happen in the next few days,” Tanner said. “Mike battled and saved our bullpen from doing anything else today.”

Six USC pitchers have combined for 12 saves this season, but Cisco has recorded the team’s last two.

His recent success could merit more as the postseason continues.

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