South Carolina coach Ray Tanner came to Carolina Stadium on Tuesday thinking he needed a premium starting pitching performance with five games this week. He was hoping it was going to come from Patrick Sullivan after Steven Neff was scratched Monday with soreness in his left shoulder.
But that plan changed when Neff convinced Tanner he was well enough to give it a go. The junior left-hander battled his way through fiveinnings to lead No. 4 South Carolina to a 6-1 victory against Presbyterian in front of an announced crowd of 6,575.
"It was special seeing Steven Neff back on the mound again," Tanner said. "After running into the fence on Sunday, it was looking like hewasn't going to be able to go, then he was able to go. He gave us five innings and I was happy with his outing."
Neff crashed into the wall on Sunday at Mississippi, but was well enough to make his first mound start since April 12 against The Citadel.
"I was sore and stiff on my left and right shoulder," Neff said. "Today, I felt fine. I got some treatment and worked with the trainers and feltfine."
The Lancaster High product was developing into one of the Gamecocks' most reliable weekend starters, but developed soreness in his bicepafter a seven-inning performance against Georgia on March 19. He was on the shelf a few weeks before being able to make that start on April 12.
But Neff was unable to rejoin the weekend rotation with the arm trouble's lingering effects. He was able to make two midweek relief appearances since, but his role changed drastically in the past few weeks with the rash of injuries USC has suffered. Neff has contributedmore as a fourth outfielder and designated hitter while the Gamecocks have played without regulars Jackie Bradley, Adam Matthews and EvanMarzilli.
"I just enjoy being out there," Neff said. "I would like to start on the weekends or come in in relief. I like doing it all so whatever the coaches want me to do."
Neff could be needed more on the mound going in the stretch run since Colby Holmes and Forrest Koumas have struggled the past twoweekends. Tanner said there has been no decision beyond Michael Roth making his regular Friday night start.
"We wanted to get him up (Tuesday) so that he would have that extra day if we have to use him on the weekend," Tanner said. "I'm not trying to be evasive, but behind Roth, I'm not sure exactly what we're going to do."
Neff's audition went well enough when he scattered five hits and one run with five strikeouts and a walk in his 82-pitch outing. The Blue Hose(20-29) got a RBI single by John Wagner in the fifth for their only run.
"I haven't started in a while (or) pitched long innings in a while," Neff said. "I was trying to go out there and throw strikes and stay outthere."
South Carolina (38-10) pushed across runs in the first two innings on a sacrifice fly by Brady Thomas in the first and a RBI single from DeSean Anderson in the second off of Presbyterian starter Bud Jeter, a former Dreher standout.
Christian Walker added a two-run single in the fifth. Peter Mooney hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to score Robert Beary, then hit the Gamecocks' first home run in eight games, a solo blast in the eighth.
"Obviously it was a rough weekend. It's not we wanted," said Walker of losing two games at Mississippi. "At the same time you have to flush itas soon as possible and move on. We have six games here at home and hopefully we can get them all."
Ray Tanner postgame
Steven Neff postgame