Two pitches into Tuesday night’s game at Riley Park, the South Carolina baseball team had already scored more runs than it did in last season’s shutout loss to The Citadel.
Leadoff hitter Evan Marzilli’s leadoff bunt single and Joey Pankake’s RBI double on those first two pitches by Citadel starter Brett Tompkins gave the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish on the way to a 7-3 victory.
It was a stark contrast to the 2011 game played here, which The Citadel won 2-0.
The No. 11 Gamecocks (18-7) bounced back from two straight losses to top-ranked Florida with a solid offensive showing against the Bulldogs (9-15). USC travels to Nashville this weekend for an SEC series against Vanderbilt.
“We’ve got a little momentum, and scoring seven runs is a big deal,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “You hate to make too much out of it, but we usually score three or four. I told the guys tonight to do a little bit more for our pitching staff. And we did. You score six or seven runs and you have a good chance to win in this day and age of college baseball. It was a good effort by our guys.”
With four runs in the fifth inning, the Gamecocks blew open a close game, as Christian Walker’s RBI single and Erik Payne’s two-run triple highlighted the inning.
USC freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery put together his best outing of the season to pick up his first career win. He threw 5 2/3 innings and allowed just one run on three hits and no walks while striking out four.
“It feels good every time going out there and getting a good quality start, but this one is definitely a good one getting the W,” said Montgomery, who lowered his ERA to 3.60.
In the first inning, Marzilli upped his streak of reaching base to 25 games with the bunt single on the first pitch, and Pankake blasted a double into the right-center gap on the second pitch to score Marzilli, although Pankake was thrown out at third base trying to stretch it into a triple.
“It’s good to get a run across in that first inning. We kind of played behind (against Florida) it seemed like all weekend. Getting on them early was great,” said Pankake, who left the game in the seventh inning after straining his pectoral muscle during an at-bat.
The injury isn’t believed to be serious.
Marzilli, who led USC’s nine-hit attack with two hits along with Pankake and Tanner English, also believed the Gamecocks needed to reverse what happened against the Gators.
“Today is one of those days where you want to come out and score some runs and do something you didn’t do over the weekend. We were able to do that,” Marzilli said. “There are still some things to work on, but today was better. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
USC boosted its lead to 3-0 in the third inning on four hits off Tompkins (0-1) – an infield single by English, a hit-and-run single by Marzilli, an RBI infield single by Pankake, and an RBI double to left field by Brison Celek.
Montgomery didn’t give up a hit until Nick Orvin’s leadoff single in the fourth inning. Orvin scored on Justin Mackert’s RBI double to left to cut the lead to 3-1.
“Knowing I have a little lead, I can just go out there and throw and not have to be as worried about it,” Montgomery said. “I was just to eat up some innings and hand it off to the bullpen.”
The Bulldogs added their second run on a pinch-hit solo homer by Tyler Griffin off USC reliever Evan Beal in the eighth. They made it 7-3 in the ninth inning when Bo Thompson drilled an RBI double off Adam Westmoreland. But Patrick Sullivan came to get record the final out, which came as a relief to Tanner, especially after last season’s result.
“You have to play well down here against the Citadel, and we had a good game,” Tanner said.