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Westmoreland finds his groove for USC

Adam Westmoreland
Adam Westmoreland

Local baseball fans might remember Adam Westmoreland toeing the mound in dominating fashion as Brookland-Cayce was clinching last year’s Class 3A state championship against A.C. Flora.

It’s been nearly nine months since that time, but on Tuesday against Georgia State, the big, burly lefthander pitched the final six innings to pick up his first career win for South Carolina as the Gamecocks scuffled to a 2-0 victory against the Panthers in front of an announced paid attendance of 5,702 at chilly Carolina Stadium.

Westmoreland was glad to finally get a chance to show what he could do in a game situation and he didn’t disappoint.

“It felt really good to get out there and get some extended innings,” Westmoreland said. “Once I got towards the end, it felt kind of like my old self, felt like I got back into a groove like I used too.”

The 6-foot-5, 280-pound freshman finished by allowing four hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in his 103-pitch outing. He pitched three innings in the season opener and has gone nine total innings without allowing a run with 12 strikeouts, three walks and four hits allowed.

That is the type of performance the Tanner was expecting out the winner of the 2008 South Carolina Mr. Baseball and the 3A Player of the Year. In his final season with the Bearcats, Westmoreland went 9-1 with one save and a 0.85 ERA. He struck out 132 and only walked 26.

Westmoreland has not started a game yet, but Tanner said that would probably change next week during one of the two midweek games.

“We’re going to certainly give him a look as a starter,” Tanner said. “We have to get innings. Guys that are strong, big guys like he is and have durability we’re going to leave them out there and let them throw some pitches.”

The outcome was still in doubt when Tanner paid Westmoreland a visit in the ninth inning after he gave a leadoff walk to Jonathan Kolowich. Westmoreland got a strike out on the next batter but gave up an infield single to put the tying run on base with one out. He induced Theo Asher to ground back to the mound and he started the 1-4-3 double play to end the threat.

“He’s a young guy we know we’re going to have to count on, and I’m glad he was able to experience what he had to do at the end and come out of it with a win,” Tanner said. “As he gets older, I might have gone to the bullpen but I didn’t want to take the ball out of his hand in that situation. He’s a young pitcher and he needs to be in the middle of things like this.”

Blake Cooper started but only pitched three innings and threw 48 pitches. Tanner wanted to get him some work since he missed his scheduled start on Sunday against Clemson, but he should be available again this weekend against Long Beach State.

The Gamecocks offense started quickly but fizzled after the first two batters of the game. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to leadoff and Whit Merrifield lofted a ball into the visitor’s bullpen in left-centerfield on the first pitch he saw for the only offense for either team. South Carolina only finished with four hits.

“I come to the plate ready to hit,” Merrifield said. “If he (the pitcher) throws it where I can hit it then I’m going to hit it.”

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