South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook hoped his team wouldn’t have a letdown on a bitterly cold Tuesday afternoon against Stetson coming off a dramatic sweep of rival Clemson. But he need not have worried.
The third-ranked Gamecocks scored six runs in the first two innings on the way to a 7-1 win against the Hatters at Carolina Stadium. The everyday lineup collected 12 hits, and left-hander Josh Reagan led a parade of four freshman pitchers who combined to allow no earned runs.
“When we were taking BP (batting practice) today, the guys had a little energy, and that was good to see,” Holbrook said. “They carried that over to the first half of the game. It was an emotional weekend, and sometimes that weekend can take a lot out of you.”
He credited his veteran players for making sure that focus was maintained.
“Having an older team, a little bit more mature, they understand that each game is very, very important,” he said. “They came down here with a purpose today, to win, and early in the game, they were locked in pretty good.”
One of those veterans, junior catcher Grayson Greiner, led the way with a two-run single in the first inning and an RBI single in the four-run second inning.
“Sometimes you’ll see teams come off a big series sweep or an emotional weekend and lay an egg in a game they’re supposed to win,” said Greiner, who has a team-high 18 RBIs. “We came out early swinging the bats, Josh threw well, and we took care of business. We’ve got to do the same thing (Wednesday).”
USC improved to 11-0 – the program’s best start since going 18-0 to begin the 2004 season – while the Hatters fell to 2-10. The teams play Wednesday at 4 p.m. to conclude the series. Right-hander Curt Britt will start for the Gamecocks.
The soft-tossing Reagan (2-0) pitched five effective innings in his first college start – allowing one run on six hits and no walks – before giving way to hard-throwing right-hander Matthew Vogel, who tossed two shutout innings. Right-hander Taylor Widener and left-hander John Parke finished by each throwing a scoreless inning.
“Josh did a great job getting ahead of guys and working the bottom of the (strike) zone,” Greiner said. “I think he’ll tell you, and I’ll tell you, that he could have done a little bit better job putting guys away with two strikes. He left some balls up that could be hit.”
Reagan noted that he felt more comfortable as the game progressed after he gained a better feel for his pitches.
“Towards the end of the (start), everything was fresh and smooth out of my hand,” Reagan said. “My changeup was a lot better, it was down. I was coming in a lot better than the first two innings.”
Marcus Mooney and Max Schrock each added a pair of hits, and Joey Pankake also had a two-run single, as the Gamecocks took control of the game against Stetson starter Josh Powers (1-2). Before it was over, USC ran four substitutes into the game, including Gene Cone for Tanner English, who left in the sixth inning after tweaking his ankle. Cone, a freshman center fielder, got his first career hit in the eighth.
The Gamecocks didn’t allow the cold to set in either, dispatching the Hatters in two hours and seven minutes.
“You’ve got to come out here and get a win and do your job. You can’t just lay down because it’s bad weather,” Greiner said. “We wanted to get on them early and let our pitchers go on cruise control.”