Feb. 28, 2014

Rankings are from CBI Composite Poll

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Greiner, Gamecocks Rally

By John Whittle

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com

(photos by Juan Blas of TheBigSpur.com)


COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 3 South Carolina exploded for six runs in the middle innings, keyed by a grand slam by Grayson Greiner, to notch a 9-6 comeback victory over No. 11 Clemson Friday night in front of a crowd of 8,284 at Carolina Stadium. Billed as a pitchers’ duel with two preseason All-Americans on the mound, the teams combined for 15 runs on 21 hits.


Juniors Jordan Montgomery and Daniel Gossett didn’t factor into the decision as the hitters stole the show. Greiner, the Gamecocks’ junior catcher, was 3 for 4 with five RBI for the Gamecocks, who slugged 13 hits but also benefitted from four Tigers errors and six walks.


South Carolina (8-0) found a hot pitcher in right-hander Cody Mincey, who picked up his first career win throwing 2.2 scoreless innings. Closer Joel Seddon picked up the save, registering two strikeouts after entering with the tying run at the plate with no outs in the ninth inning.


“I was really, really proud of my team; they responded the right way,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “You talk about handling adversity all the time, and they were tested tonight. They handled the adversity. Our kids played awfully hard, and they competed every pitch and it took that for us to win the game tonight.”


South Carolina’s streak of 52 consecutive innings without allowing a run was snapped in the second inning when Clemson (6-2) leveled the score at one apiece. After walking senior Jon McGibbon, who had just one hit on the season entering the night, Montgomery allowed a two-out RBI single to freshman Weston Wilson.


It was the beginning of a tough night for Montgomery (right).


The Tigers opened up the game in the top of the fourth inning by touching Montgomery for four runs. The bases were loaded after leadoff hitter Tyler Slaton beat out an infield single with two outs that prompted an argument by Holbrook with the first-base umpire.


Sophomore Tyler Krieger cleared the bases with a double to left-center, and he came around to score on the next pitch when junior Garrett Boulware knocked a double off the wall to make the score 5-1.


The Tigers added an unearned run in the fifth inning when Montgomery fielded a sacrifice bunt and threw past third baseman Joey Pankake, which allowed Steven Duggar to score.


While Montgomery’s final line of six runs (five earned) in 5.1 innings wasn’t what was expected, the junior did make some big pitches to keep his team within shouting distance. With two runners in scoring position in the fifth inning, he struck out the next three hitters to keep it a 6-1 game.


“It definitely wasn’t my best, but I knew that last inning, I had to play damage control,” Montgomery said. “I missed a few spots on a couple of close calls. I had a few more walks than I usually do. I felt like I had pretty good stuff, but I hit a couple of barrels. I thought I had pretty good stuff.”


Holbrook called the sequence the “biggest moment in the game.”


“He pitched his rear end off to get out of the inning with no runs allowed,” Holbrook said. “That gave us a shot.”


The Gamecocks got right back in the game in the bottom of the fifth when Greiner launched a bases-loaded fastball from Gossett over the left-field wall. The home run was the third for Greiner on the season.


Greiner was given the green light to swing at the 2-0 pitch from Gossett, who had walked the batter before him.


“It’s not exactly what I was trying to do but I’m glad it happened,” Greiner said. “It brought a little bit of energy back in the crowd. I think that was the turning point momentum-wise. Once we got that big hit, everyone in the dugout thought we could win it.”


Gossett (left) was knocked out of the game after allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks. He struck out eight in 4.2 innings.


Clemson reliever Clay Bates didn’t have much better luck and forfeited the lead the very next inning. Junior Connor Bright beat out the relay of a potential double-play ball that scored a run in the bottom of the sixth, and Greiner’s two-out infield single gave the Gamecocks the lead at 7-6.


The Gamecocks added insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings to give Mincey and Seddon a bit of a cushion. Junior Tanner English, who was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before his at-bat in the seventh, launched his first home run. Junior Kyle Martin, who also had an RBI single in the first inning, scored on a wild pitch in the eighth to cap the scoring.


“We’ve got less than 12 hours to get back on the field,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “We’ll be ready to play [in Greenville] and bounce back. There’s a lot of heartache through the course of the year every year. This was tough moment for us tonight.”


The one-two punch of Mincey and Seddon combined to pitch 3.2 innings, allowing one hit and a walk and striking out six. On the year, Seddon has not allowed a hit or a walk in 4.2 innings. He has nine strikeouts, and only one ball has left the infield.


Game 2 of the series is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Flour Field in Greenville, S.C. in a neutral-site contest. Games 3 is set for Sunday at 4 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C.