No-hitter highlights USC sweep

Three USC pitchers combine on program’s first no-hitter since 1975

nwhite@thestate.comFebruary 24, 2013 

USC's Colby Holmes

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

— Ray Lavigne threw a no-hitter against George Mason for the South Carolina baseball team on March 26, 1975, an achievement that came one day after teammate Tim Lewis accomplished the same feat against Old Dominion.

It took the Gamecocks 38 years to get the next one.

Colby Holmes, Forrest Koumas and Josh Knab combined on the gem Sunday afternoon at Carolina Stadium in a 14-1 victory against Albany in the first game of a doubleheader. The No. 7 Gamecocks (5-1) didn’t get another no-hitter in the nightcap, but won 6-4 to sweep the three-game series from the Great Danes (0-5).

“Once they made the announcement after the game, I started thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a long time.’ It’s great knowing that the three of us were part of something like that,” Holmes said.

The trio of right-handers combined for four walks and four strikeouts. Holmes (1-0) went six innings, Koumas pitched two, and Knab earned the final outs in the ninth on three straight ground balls to shortstop DC Arendas. It was the seventh no-hitter in program history, with the others coming in 1914, 1932, 1949, 1967 and 1975.

Knab, a junior transfer from USC Sumter making his first appearance for the Gamecocks, didn’t realize the no-hitter was a possibility as he pitched the ninth. But he was pretty pleased when he learned of it after the game.

“It was pretty exciting,” Knab said. “It was a good way to start off my career here.”

USC coach Chad Holbrook, who couldn’t remember being part of a no-hitter in his 15 seasons as an assistant at North Carolina, also enjoyed what the three were able to do.

“Our pitchers certainly threw well. That was a terrific game for us,” Holbrook said. “It was neat to be part of that.”

The run scored by Albany in the no-hitter was unearned. Holmes walked the leadoff hitter in the fourth inning. After a throwing error by third baseman Chase Vergason put runners on second and third, Josh Nethaway delivered a sacrifice fly.

But the Gamecocks put up 14 unanswered runs to win going away. They scored nine runs in the fifth inning on eight hits and three Albany errors. Vergason, who had two hits and three RBIs in the game, started the rally with a solo homer, and Max Schrock and Graham Saiko each had two-run singles in the frame. The nine runs in the inning were the most since the Gamecocks scored 10 against Valparaiso in a 2010 victory.

The hitters were as excited as the pitchers about the no-hitter.

“We weren’t saying anything as it was happening because of that old rule that you can’t talk about it in the dugout,” Vergason said. “But everyone knew it was in the back of our minds, and when it happened, it was very cool and something very special to be a part of.”

LB Dantzler, who hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning of the first game and tallied three hits in the second game, had a huge weekend. The senior first baseman went 9-for-14 with two doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs. Dantzler, who batted .262 last season, is hitting .545 with three homers and 13 RBIs.

“He’s a good player and a good hitter. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and has some pop in his bat,” Holbrook said. “He’s doing a much better job of using the whole field.”

In the second game, senior left-hander Nolan Belcher (1-1), who gave up his first hit in the second inning, went six innings. Although he gave up a pair of runs on eight hits, he walked none and struck out seven. Senior right-hander Patrick Sullivan and senior left-hander Tyler Webb, who picked up his second save on the season, wrapped things up on the mound over the final three innings.

But as impressively as they threw, they couldn’t match what the first-game trio accomplished. Holmes, who threw 80 pitches, loved seeing the relievers who followed him help put together a piece of USC baseball history.

“I had confidence in these two guys that they would go out and do what they do best,” he said.

USC will play Furman on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Carolina Stadium. Freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop is the expected starter. Shortstop Joey Pankake, who left the second game in the first inning with a muscle strain in his hip, could miss this game, but Holbrook hopes he’ll be ready for the Clemson series this weekend.

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- Box score: USC-Albany, Game 3

- Box score: USC-Albany, Game 2

- Box score: USC-Albany, Game 1

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