As weeks go, they don’t get much worse than the South Carolina baseball team just had.
The Gamecocks (27-10, 8-7 SEC) needed a walk-off home run in the ninth inning to escape with a mid-week win over The Citadel and then went on the road against a struggling Florida team and got swept, the second time they’ve been swept this season in an SEC series.
Here's a look at the highs and the lows from the last week of baseball:
The senior left-hander pitched well against the Gators and deserved a better fate. He tossed his second complete game of the season in the 3-2 loss. Only one of the three runs he allowed was earned. He gave up just seven hits and one walk in eight innings. Belcher has posted a 5-3 with a 1.63 ERA, five walks and 55 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings while developing into the staff ace with Jordan Montgomery slowed by his arm injury.
His solo homer to lead off the ninth inning in the win over The Citadel was much needed after the Gamecocks allowed the three game-tying runs in the top of the frame. He has six homers and 25 RBIs on the season.
The hits keep on coming in this regard. First closer Tyler Webb, the SEC leader in saves, develops a sore left arm that keeps him from pitching against Florida, which likely cost USC a win in Friday’s game. And now catcher Dante Rosenberg is out six to eight weeks with a broken hamate bone in his wrist. That will place a huge burden on Grayson Greiner to carry the load behind the plate for the remainder of the season.
After losing the last three conference games, the differences between the team’s overall stats and the SEC stats are starting to widen. The Gamecocks are batting .284 overall but only .254 in conference play. The team ERA stands at 3.16 overall, but it’s 3.99 in the SEC. Granted the competition level has a lot to do with that. The everyday players, especially Pankake, haven’t consistently gotten timely hits in the conference, while the pitchers, especially Colby Holmes, Evan Beal and Jack Wynkoop, have struggled to get outs against SEC competition.
... Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner has caught fire. He hit .455 (5-for-11) against the Gators, and he leads the team in SEC games with a .362 average (17-for-47) in his 13 starts in conference play. On the season his numbers keep climbing, too. He’s now hitting .306 with five doubles, three homers and 25 RBIs.
... Sophomore outfielder Connor Bright has jumped into the team lead with a .324 average after a string of solid games at the plate. He went 5-for-12 in the Florida series. On the season he has four doubles, a triple, three homers and 10 RBIs.
Both Pankake and LB Dantzler didn’t have great weekends at the plate, and their bats are keys to USC’s success. Pankake went 1-for-11 and was pushed down in the lineup from his normal No. 3 spot. Dantzler went 2-for-11, although he did have three walks and two RBIs. Their averages have steadily dropped in SEC play. Dantzler is hitting .228 in 15 conference games, while Pankake has fallen to .186.
... Inconsistent defensive play continues to plague the team. Errors by third baseman George Iskenderian and Greiner helped the Gators pull out the 3-2 win in the series opener.
JUST THE FACTS
... The Gamecocks lead the SEC with 32 homers.
... USC is 23-1 when leading a game after six innings, with the only loss coming last Friday against Florida, which scored three eighth-inning runs in a 4-3 win.
... After 37 games last season, the Gamecocks also were 27-10 overall and 8-7 in the conference.
... Tuesday: College of Charleston, Carolina Stadium, 7 p.m. (SportSouth)
... Friday: Kentucky, Carolina Stadium, 7 p.m.
... Saturday: Kentucky, Carolina Stadium, 3 p.m. (SportSouth)
... Sunday: Kentucky, Carolina Stadium, 1:30 p.m.