Baseball: Sweeping change

Gamecocks starting to find the right formula as they register their first SEC sweep and move above .500 in league play

nwhite@thestate.comApril 15, 2012 

By pulling off its first sweep of the SEC season, the South Carolina baseball team is rounding into form as it enters the second half of league play.

Sunday afternoon’s 6-4 win over Mississippi State at Carolina Stadium also boosted the No. 10 Gamecocks above the break-even point in SEC play for the first time this season. USC (27-10, 8-7 SEC) has won seven of its past nine conference games and three consecutive conference series after dropping its first two.

“Finally, today we got over the .500 mark,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “I think it does help, where you can relax a little bit and not feel so much pressure all the time.”

Junior center fielder Evan Marzilli, who led the 11-hit attack with three hits, believes the Gamecocks might be fitting the pieces of the puzzle together.

“I feel like our team is starting to mesh together a little more,” Marzilli said. “We’ve had a young team, and a bunch of guys had to learn a bunch of different things. We had to learn how to play with each other and know our roles. This weekend, some guys started doing some good things, and it was a good weekend for us.”

Junior right-hander Colby Holmes threw 8 1/3 solid innings to defeat the Bulldogs (21-15, 5-10 SEC). Holmes (5-0) also did not walk a batter for his second straight Sunday win, which he credited to an improved changeup.

“His stuff was good all day long,” Tanner said. “That was a tremendous outing.”

With USC facing a depleted bullpen after the first two wins, Holmes understood he needed to burn up some innings, something he did into the ninth.

“I knew that I needed to go out there and pitch as long as I could,” he said. “I just pitched my heart out, and everything worked for me today.”

The Bulldogs did manage to score two runs in the ninth on Mitch Slauter’s RBI infield single and Brent Brownless’ RBI groundout, but junior left-hander Tyler Webb got the final two outs for his second save.

Mississippi State fell behind 6-2 in the eighth on Joey Pankake’s two-run single.

The big inning came in the fifth, when the Gamecocks answered Mississippi State’s two runs with three of their own. Bulldogs third baseman Daryl Norris’ one-out error on an LB Dantzler grounder down the line led to the rally’s first run. It set up a sacrifice fly by Brison Celek and an RBI infield single by Adam Matthews to give the Gamecocks a 4-2 lead.

Marzilli, who scored the run on Celek’s sacrifice fly, credited the hitters for making the adjustments that led to more runs this weekend.

“We’re going up there and swinging the bats and trying to be more aggressive,” Marzilli said. “That was the biggest change this weekend. I thought we did a good job with that.”

The Gamecocks, who had lost nine of their past 10 games when scoring four runs or fewer, scored more than four all three games against the Bulldogs. Tanner agreed with Marzilli.

“We’re just getting better swings off, and if you can hit enough balls hard, you’re going to get some balls to fall for you,” Tanner said. “That’s the difference in where we are and where we’ve been. We’re just attacking a little bit better.”

The Bulldogs grabbed their only lead in the fifth inning when Holmes gave up a single to Slauter and double to Hunter Renfroe to put runners at second and third with one out. Tyler Fullerton followed with a little dribbler out in front of the plate, and Holmes flipped the ball to catcher Dante Rosenberg, but Slauter slid in safely under the tag. That prompted a spirited argument from USC coach Ray Tanner, but the call stood.

With runners now on the corners, Sam Frost hit a comebacker to Holmes that the pitcher tried to turn for a double play. USC got the lead runner, but Pankake’s throw pulled Walker off the bag and Renfroe scored to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.

The Gamecocks appear to have found their footing in the SEC.

“Everybody’s ecstatic,” Holmes said. “The guys are starting to swing the bats well; the pitchers are throwing great. All the guys are like one big family. Everybody is picking up each other, no matter good or bad.”

South Carolina next plays host to College of Charleston on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

USC-MSU Game 3 box score

SEC standings

EASTERNSECPct.OverallPct.HomeAwayNeutralStreak
Kentucky11 - 4.73332 - 5.86522-29-31-0W2
Florida9 - 6.60028 - 8.77818-39-51-0W1
South Carolina8 - 7.53327 - 10.73021-45-61-0W3
Georgia7 - 8.46722 - 14.61118-103-41-0L1
Tennessee7 - 8.46721 - 15.58318-82-51-2L1
Vanderbilt6 - 9.40016 - 20.44415-111-90-0W1

WESTERNSECPct.OverallPct.HomeAwayNeutralStreak
LSU11 - 4.73330 - 7.81124-45-31-0W6
Arkansas8 - 7.53325 - 10.71421-42-52-1L2
Ole Miss7 - 8.46724 - 12.66718-56-70-0W1
Auburn7 - 8.46719 - 16.54314-74-91-0L1
Mississippi St.5 - 10.33321 - 15.58319-62-90-0L3
Alabama4 - 11.26713 - 23.36111-82-140-1L4

-------------------

MISS. STATE    USC    
 abrhbi abrhbi
Frazier ss 4000Pnkake ss 5022
Brdford cf 4020Marzilli cf 4230
Norris 3b 4110Walker 1b 4101
Porter dh 4110Dntzler 3b 3001
Rea 1b 4000Celek dh 3001
Slauter c 4121Mtthws rf 4021
Rnfroe rf 3120Rsnberg c 3000
Fullrton lf 3001Greiner c 1110
Casey ph 0000Vrgson 2b 3120
Brwnl ph 1001English lf 3110
Frost 2b 4001     
Totals 35484Totals 336116

Miss. State0000200024
USC00103002X6

E—Frazier (8); Norris (1); Pankake (13). DP—MSU 1; S. Carolina 1. LOB—MSU 5; S. Carolina 9. 2B—Porter (4); Renfroe (11); Greiner (8); Vergason (2). 3B—Marzilli (2). SH—English (5). SF—Celek (1). SB—Marzilli (7).

MISS. STATEIPHRERBBSO
Mitchell L,1-1 4 1/354233
Lindgren 1 1/340002
Stark 1 2/322211
Girodo 1/300000
Mitchell 1/300000

USCIPHRERBBSO
Holmes W,5-0 8 1/384403
Privette 000010
Webb Sv,2 2/300000

Privette faced 1 batter in the 9th

UmpiresHP: Mark Chapman 1B: David Savage 3B: Steve Dew. T—2:30. A—7,011.

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