After a pair of walk-off victories Saturday, the South Carolina baseball team put it on cruise control Sunday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
The second-ranked Gamecocks rolled past No. 22 Tennessee 8-0 behind a strong start from freshman right-hander Wil Crowe and a 13-hit attack to complete their first SEC series sweep on the season.
Junior catcher Grayson Greiner, who hit the game-ending grand slam in a six-run ninth-inning rally to win Saturday’s second game, followed up with a first-inning RBI single and eighth-inning RBI double in the Sunday rout.
“It’s only natural after those two losses, if you jump on them, you feel like you have the advantage there,” Greiner said. “We got some runs early, and we just felt like we were in control the whole game. We finally won a normal game without having to come back in the ninth inning or something like that.”
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With the win, USC improved to 24-3 overall and 6-3 in conference, tied for first place in the Eastern Division with Florida. The Volunteers, who dropped to 19-7 overall and 3-6 in the SEC, struggled after losing two games the day before on walk-off homers.
“They had their heart ripped out last night. You don’t have any emotion after you lose a game like that,” Holbrook said. “I’ve been in that dugout, and I know what it’s like to lose a game like that. It’s awfully difficult bounce back from that, especially when you don’t get off to a great start in that next game.”
Crowe (6-0) allowed eight singles and walked no batters over 7 1/3 innings in his 110-pitch stint, which lowered his ERA to 1.37. Junior right-hander Cody Mincey threw the final 1 2/3 innings to finish off the team’s 11th shutout of the season.
Greiner, who leads the club with 29 RBIs, called Crowe’s outing the freshman’s best start of the season.
“He rarely got behind the hitter, and if he did, he would still attack the zone. I thought all of his stuff was on-point. He kept those guys off-balance,” Greiner said. “He’s got that good of stuff where if he’s ahead in the count, he’s pretty unhittable. What he’s been able to do thus far this season has been unbelievable.”
Crowe, a Sevierville, Tenn., native, didn’t show any nerves facing the Vols. Holbrook cited his “competitive spirit.”
“That was a meaningful game for him. He’s a Tennessee boy,” Holbrook said. “He grew up being a Volunteer fan 20 minutes from their campus. I’m sure he felt a little pressure today going against his home-state school. He threw the ball extremely well, and that was really, really neat to see.”
Crowe, who watched his infield defense turn three double plays behind him, admitted the win was a meaningful one.
“It’s special. I’m just trying to help out the team a lot. I was lucky to get some ground balls and double plays and get out of some jams,” he said.
The Gamecocks scored a pair of runs in the first inning in support of Crowe, starting with an RBI single by Joey Pankake, who extended his hitting streak to 15 games.
“First-inning runs are huge,” Crowe said. “It gives you a sense of comfort, and you don’t really have to stress about getting everybody out. You can give up a hit here or there and try to get ground balls.”
The offense featured six players with two hits and four with two RBIs, including Elliott Caldwell, whose two-run double keyed the four-run fifth-inning. Tanner English also collected two hits and a pair of RBIs.
The big day helped the Gamecocks chalk up a significant series sweep.
“We honestly haven’t felt too great the way we’ve been playing up until today,” Greiner said. “As a team, we felt like we could play a lot better. Any time you can get a sweep in the SEC, you did something right. We easily could have been 0-2 yesterday and been looking at a series loss and trying to salvage a win. Fortunately, the cards fell our way.”
Tennessee coach Dave Serrano knew that his team would face an uphill battle Sunday, and he was disappointed with the effort.
“I tried to prepare the team for the fact that we had two choices today,” he said. “We could come in and mail it in because we feel sorry for ourselves, or we could come in and grind. We didn’t grind.”