Bluegrass brooms: Gamecocks finish off sweep of Wildcats

nwhite@thestate.comApril 21, 2013 

— For the fifth consecutive SEC weekend, the South Carolina baseball team was involved in a sweep. For the third time, the Gamecocks found themselves on the right side.

With Sunday afternoon’s 3-1 victory against Kentucky at Carolina Stadium, USC completed the sweep behind freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop’s arm and senior first baseman LB Dantzler’s bat.

The No. 18 Gamecocks (31-10, 11-7 SEC) were swept by Arkansas to start the streak before bouncing back to sweep Texas A&M and Tennessee. But they were swept by Florida last weekend before coming back to knock off the No. 17 Wildcats (24-15, 7-11 SEC), who have lost nine of their past 11 games.

Holbrook called the string of sweeps an unusual circumstance. He’s thankful his team has won nine of the 15 games.

“You can’t count on a sweep in this league because the teams are so evenly matched. It’s just the way it’s going right now,” Holbrook said. “As euphoric as I am that we swept a really good team, it’s gut-wrenching to get swept. We’ve been able to manage it.”

The Gamecocks especially wanted to finish off this sweep.

“As far as winning this game, it’s huge,” Dantzler said. “We’re either 10-8 or 11-7, and that’s a big difference. You’re either two (games) above .500 or four, and that’s big heading to LSU this weekend.”

Wynkoop (5-2), who had not started since the Texas A&M series, efficiently mowed down the Kentucky hitters. He scattered nine hits and walked none while not allowing an earned run in eight innings, the longest stint of his USC career. His ERA dropped to 3.12 after his 100-pitch outing.

“I threw all four pitches for strikes. Their hitters have great approaches at the plate and they found ways to get on base. Luckily, I minimized the damage,” Wynkoop said. “I love to go as deep as possible every time I get the ball. I was just telling myself between innings to just get three more outs and go to the next inning. That’s what I did.”

Holbrook liked the way Wynkoop worked ahead in the count and used his defense, traits that likely will keep him in the rotation this weekend. The only run he allowed came on A.J. Reed’s fourth-inning RBI double that followed a Dantzler error.

“He pitched with poise. He wasn’t a typical freshman out there today. That was good to see and good for our team going forward,” Holbrook said.

Dantzler cranked a two-run homer to dead center off UK starter Corey Littrell (4-3) in the fourth inning to give USC a 2-1 lead it wouldn’t give up. The blast, Dantzler’s second of the series, gives him team highs of 12 homers and 42 RBIs on the season.

Holbrook called the home run symbolic of USC’s good fortune in the series since a wind that had been blowing in all game stopped when Dantzler stepped up to the plate.

“I thought to myself right then, ‘Boy, it would be good for him to get one in the air right now,’ and I’ll be dadgum, he did,” Holbrook said. “As soon as he touched home plate, the wind started blowing again. It was just our weekend. Things went well for us.”

The Gamecocks upped their lead to 3-1 in the fifth inning on Joey Pankake’s two-out RBI single. Pankake, who also singled in front of Dantzler’s home run, went 7-for-14 in the three-game series. After senior right-hander Colby Holmes walked the first batter of the ninth, senior left-hander Tyler Webb, who missed last weekend with a sore elbow, got the final three outs for his 12th save, one day after pitching three innings for one of the wins in the doubleheader, as he lowered his ERA to 0.64 in 28 innings.

“We had to go to our All-American. We didn’t necessarily want to, but I wanted to win, too,” Holbrook said. “And Tyler said he felt great again. His arm is structurally sound. If there was a question about that, he wouldn’t have pitched. But he wants the ball, and when he wants the ball, his coach wants to give it to him. He’s been incredible all year.”

South Carolina travels to Shelby, N.C., Tuesday for a game against Gardner-Webb in a homecoming game for Holbrook.

“Shelby’s a special place to me,” he said. “It’s a neat stadium. It’ll be a special day. I’m proud to take my team to my hometown.”

BOX SCORE: USC 3, Kentucky 1

SEC standings

EASTSEC recordSEC Pct.Overall recordOverall Pct.
Vanderbilt16-2.88935-6.854
USC11-7.61131-10.756
Florida11-7.61122-18.550
Kentucky7-11.38924-15.615
Tennessee5-13.27817-21.447
Missouri5-13.27813-22.371
Georgia4-14.22215-26.366

WESTSEC recordSEC Pct.Overall recordOverall Pct.
LSU15-3.83337-4.902
Arkansas11-7.61127-15.643
Miss. State10-8.55632-10.762
Ole Miss10-8.55629-12.707
Alabama9-9.50024-18.571
Texas A&M7-11.38922-19.537
Auburn6-12.33324-16.600

Sunday’s Games

Arkansas 2, Texas A&M 1

Alabama 4, LSU 3

Ole Miss 4, Tennessee 3

Vanderbilt 5, Georgia 1

USC 3, Kentucky 1

Missouri 8, Florida 2

Mississippi State 6, Auburn 0

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