Opening Day: Gamecocks start season twice as nice

USC’s bats survive the winter freeze to help bury Bucknell

nwhite@thestate.comFebruary 15, 2014 

The South Carolina baseball team was forced to wait an extra day to start its season due to a wintry mix of snow and ice, but it didn’t take long for the seventh-ranked Gamecocks to get their bats warmed up.

The Gamecocks scored eight runs in the first three innings on their way to a breezy 17-4 victory against Bucknell in the first game of Saturday’s season-opening doubleheader. They cruised to a 12-2 win in the nightcap for the sweep.

USC coach Chad Holbrook liked what he saw over six hours and 22 minutes of baseball.

“We had 18 innings and one error for the day. Shoot, we scored 29 runs and had 22 hits,” Holbrook said. “All in all, it was a good day.”

A six-run outburst in the third inning of the opener was highlighted by four consecutive at-bats — Kyle Martin’s RBI single, Grayson Greiner’s RBI double, Connor Bright’s two-run double and DC Arendas’ two-run homer.

“With the middle of our order, we feel like we can drive the ball in some gaps and hit the ball over the fence,” Greiner said. “And we’ve got some guys at the top and the bottom (of the order) who can run. There are a lot of options we have.”

That would be more than enough support for junior left-hander Jordan Montgomery (1-0), who tossed five shutout innings. He allowed three singles and one walk while striking out four. The standout from Sumter picked up where he left off last season, when he finished with 16 shutout innings in victories against Liberty and North Carolina in the NCAA tournament.

“I tried to go out there and hit my spots and get ready for deeper in the season,” said Montgomery, who is 13-2 in his career.

In the second game, the Gamecocks (2-0) took command in the early going, keyed by a three-run second inning that featured RBI singles from Tanner English and Max Schrock. Greiner added a two-run double in the fifth inning, and English laced a two-run triple in the seventh to help put the game away.

Over the two games, Martin went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, Greiner went 4-for-8 with four RBIs, Arendas was 4-for-7 with three RBIs, Bright went 4-for-7 with five RBIs and English finished 3-for-7 with five RBIs.

“For us to start out the way we are hitting the ball as hard as we are and pushing a lot of runs across is a very good thing,” Martin said.

Sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop (1-0) tossed five innings with a career-high six strikeouts to collect the win, although he scuffled a little in the first and third innings. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and allowed a pair of runs in the third on Corey Furman’s solo homer and Jon Mayer’s RBI double.

Greiner, the preseason All-America catcher, liked the way the two starters threw.

“They established their fastballs in and out,” Greiner said. “They left a few balls up, which is a little uncommon for both those guys with the command they have, but obviously if you look at their stat lines, they both threw pretty well.”

The Bucknell pitchers, however, struggled all day. Besides allowing 22 hits, they aided the USC cause by combining to walk 20 batters and hit six more.

Holbrook was happy his team had a huge day despite Schrock and Joey Pankake, his No. 2 and No. 3 hitters, not swinging the bat like they can.

“It makes me feel good about the team we can be offensively because when we get those guys going, we’ll be even more formidable,” Holbrook said.

USC closes out the series against the Bison (0-2) on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Freshman right-hander Wil Crowe will start for the Gamecocks.

Game 2 box score - USC 12, Bucknell 2

Game 1 box score - USC 17, Bucknell 4

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