Home runs help Gamecocks hold back Bulldogs

Greiner, Pankake, Dantzler with home runs on the night

nwhite@thestate.comMarch 19, 2013 

— Nothing comes easy for the South Carolina baseball team in Riley Park.

The Citadel put up its usual spirited fight Tuesday night before the No. 5 Gamecocks held on for a 9-5 victory. But that score doesn’t indicate how tight things got.

USC (18-3) took a 6-2 lead into the seventh inning before the Bulldogs (14-8) battled back on a two-run triple by Drew DeKerlegand, who scored on shortstop Joey Pankake’s errant throw trying to cut him down at third base. That sliced the lead to 6-5 and got the 5,838 fans of both teams on the edge of their seats.

“They got hot for an inning or two. They scored some runs, but I had faith in our pitchers,” Pankake said. “They’re a good team. They fight and they battle and they play to win.”

Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner drove in three runs with a two-run homer to straightaway center in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the eighth to highlight the offense. The homer, his second of the season, gave USC its first lead at 2-1, and the sac fly provided a key insurance run for a 7-5 lead.

LB Dantzler added his team-leading seventh homer, a towering solo shot to right-center off Citadel starter Logan Cribb (1-2), in the fourth. Pankake clinched things with a two-run homer to left in the ninth, his fifth long ball of the season.

“They threw a haymaker at us and almost got back in the game, almost took the lead,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “I love the way our guys responded to that by coming back and getting a run the next inning and then Joey with the homer.”

Freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop improved to 4-0 with 5 1/3 solid innings, and senior closer Tyler Webb threw two scoreless innings to pick up his eighth save.

Wynkoop was certain the Gamecocks weren’t going to let the win slip away.

“After the bases cleared, we all kind of took a deep breath. We’re a good team coming back, even if they (had) got ahead right there,” he said. “I was pretty confident once we brought in (relievers Curt) Britt, (Vince) Fiori and Webb that we were going to be fine.”

USC responded with those three late runs to put the game away, and Webb retired all six hitters he faced on 20 pitches. Holbrook didn’t hesitate about using Webb for two innings.

“If I was going to lose that game, I was going to lose it with Tyler Webb out there,” Holbrook said.

Greiner remains amazed by how well Webb, who hasn’t allowed a run while striking out 20 hitters in 13 1/3 innings, has pitched.

“Tyler came in and slammed the door like he always does,” Greiner said. “Guys just don’t seem to touch him. He knows where to put the ball. He puts it wherever he wants. It’s the heaviest fastball I’ve ever caught. He has been incredible thus far.”

Greiner continued to heat up at the plate with his second homer in four games after not hitting one in the first 17 games.

“I’m barreling some more balls up. That’s all you can try and do sometimes,” he said.

The Bulldogs, who defeated USC in Riley Park in 2009 and 2011, outhit the Gamecocks 9-8 but couldn’t pull out the victory.

“This was a big win,” Holbrook said “It was a big game against an instate team on the road.”

The Gamecocks return home this weekend for a three-game series against No. 21 Arkansas (14-7).

BOX SCORE: USC 9, The Citadel 5

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