University South Carolina baseball rallies again
COLUMBIA -- Far from South Carolina's best baseball was enough to win its opening series in SEC play. It likely will not be this coming weekend.
Starter Adam Westmoreland was yanked in the second inning, but the Gamecocks rallied from an early two-run deficit for an 8-3 victory -- and a 2-1 series win -- against Georgia on Sunday in front of 8,012 fans at Carolina Stadium.
"Not everyone was clicking on the same page this weekend, and we still found a way to win," said USC first baseman Christian Walker, whose fourth-inning RBI groundout plated what was ultimately the winning run. "It's good to see that."
South Carolina (14-4, 2-1 SEC) won the series against Georgia (9-11, 1-2) the hard way. It committed five errors and couldn't connect for a timely hit Friday night in a 4-2 defeat. It didn't score until the eighth Saturday in a rally for a 2-1 victory.
And it needed four relievers -- Forrest Koumas, John Taylor, Bryan Harper and Matt Price -- to navigate the final eight innings Sunday, after Westmoreland's control went wayward. Those four relievers allowed a run on three hits.
"(Pitching) coach (Jerry) Meyers talked about getting to a battle of the bullpen," said Taylor, who pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings. "He thought ours could outperform theirs. That's pretty much what we did. Everybody chipped in and did their job."
Overall, USC's swirl of scuffling probably will not be a winning formula next weekend when No. 4 USC travels to play at No. 1 Florida, which just finished a convincing sweep at No. 8 LSU.
Left-handers Michael Roth and Steven Neff have the first two rotation spots nailed down, but Sunday is a complete mystery at the moment.
Koumas, a freshman, could get the nod, though Tanner isn't thrilled with his command. He walked three and balked in a run in 3 1/3 innings Sunday. Koumas (2-1) did strike out six Bulldogs, however.
Tanner was hopeful of Westmoreland seizing the gig, but that didn't happen. Closer Matt Price, who worked the final two innings for his second save of the weekend and fifth of the season, is still in the mix to perhaps start in the near future.
"There's a lot to think about," USC coach Ray Tanner said.
Added Price: "If I have to start, that's what the team needs."
Westmoreland, a sophomore left-hander, hit a batter to start the second, walked the next -- and then hit Jonathan Hester as he tried to bunt. Meyers had seen enough.
Koumas (2-0), entering with the bases loaded and none out, gave up two runs but kept UGA from a classic big inning.
Meanwhile, Georgia went through pitchers at an alarming rate -- and one that slowed the game to a three-hour, 16-minute pace. David Perno had called for four new pitchers by the fourth inning; the Bulldogs used a total of seven on the day.
The Gamecocks eventually broke open the game with a three-run eighth that included a two-out, two-run double from defensive replacement Evan Marzilli, who has been mired in a slump at the plate.
He's not the only one. All-American Jackie Bradley Jr., 0 for 5 Sunday, finished a hitless weekend and he is 0 for 19 since a hit in the March 13 loss to Bakersfield. Bradley, hitting leadoff again Sunday as Tanner tries to shake him up, is down to .288 for the season.
"There's a lot of outstanding players that go through slumps," Tanner said. "He'll be fine."
E--Farmer, Morales, Mooney. DP--USC 1. LOB--UGA 8, USC 8. 2B--Marzilli, Wingo. 3B--Verdin. SH--Matthews. SF--Delmonico. SB--Cone, Watson.
HBP--by Westmoreland (DeLoach, Hester); by Dieterich (Williams, Mooney). BK--Koumas. PB--Stephens.
Time--3:16. Att: 8,012.
There's still plenty of room for improvement for the Gamecocks in all areas of the game. Shortstop Peter Mooney had another error Sunday, throwing wide on a relatively routine play. The JUCO newcomer has eight this season, and the team has 22 in 18 games.
"I think we'll still get better," Tanner said. "We're playing some good people in the next five days. I think we'll continue to get a little bit better, too."