Another shutout, sweep: Crowe carries USC past Brown

Bears keep Gamecocks’ bats in check, but freshman provides eight strong innings

nwhite@thestate.comMarch 9, 2014 

Three games into its baseball season, Brown still hasn’t scored a run. But that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

Fifteen games into South Carolina’s season, its pitchers have combined to throw eight shutouts, including three straight against the Bears. The third-ranked Gamecocks completed the series sweep with a 1-0 victory Sunday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.

Freshman right-hander Wil Crowe (3-0) got the job done with eight strong innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out nine batters. Junior closer Joel Seddon tossed a scoreless ninth inning for his fifth save of the season.

USC coach Chad Holbrook liked how Crowe got stronger as the game progressed, especially since his young starter had no margin for error in the tight contest.

“He competes, and he starts smelling victory,” Holbrook said. “As talented as he is, I’m more pleased and impressed with his makeup, his competitive spirit, and the way he goes after people. Once he got his off-speed pitches over – he threw some really good changeups and breaking balls – that made his fastball that was 92-93 (mph) seem a little bit quicker.”

South Carolina (15-0), which will play Furman at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Carolina Stadium, outscored the Bears 21-0 in the first two games of the series.

But the Gamecocks could only scratch out one run in the fourth inning off Brown starter Christian Taugner (0-1) on a sacrifice fly by Elliott Caldwell, who rebounded from a blown hit-and-run in the second inning to get the job done.

“In the fourth, I didn’t think that would be the lone run of the game, for sure,” Caldwell said.

It didn’t help that the Gamecocks played the game without their No. 2 hitter, second baseman Max Schrock, out with a cast on his sprained ankle, and their No. 3 hitter, third baseman Joey Pankake, who’s nursing a hamstring injury. Holbrook remains hopeful both will be back for the start of SEC play Friday night against Ole Miss.

“We’ve got some injuries right now, so you’ve got to always be ready in the dugout,” Caldwell said of substitutes like Jordan Gore and Weber Pike stepping in to play well Sunday.

It was also the rare day when the team’s top two hitters, Connor Bright and Grayson Greiner, combined to go 0-for-7.

“We’re very fortunate to have won the game. Sometimes there are games that you play in baseball that you think you should have lost. We won anyway. To have a special year, you have to win these types of games,” Holbrook said. “…If you pitch and play defense, you have a chance to win. We did that today.”

The Gamecocks survived the second inning by turning a 3-6-1 double play with runners on the corners and one out. They got a pair of strikeouts from Crowe in the both the sixth and seventh innings with a runner on second and one out.

“I’m going out there to throw strikes. I’m really confident in my defense,” Crowe said. “They really never makes errors, they play the game and give it all they’ve got all the time.”

The everyday players also like what Crowe, who has posted a 0.99 ERA over 27 1/3 innings in his first four college starts, consistently brings to the mound.

“Wil has thrown great for us all year. He’s tough, tough, tough, tough,” Caldwell said. “There was no letup at all. His velo(city) was up the whole game, which is impressive, too.”

BOX SCORE: USC-Brown, Game 3

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