COLUMBIA - South Carolina pitcher Jordan Montgomery received an emotional sendoff as he exited the mound in the ninth inning Friday night at Carolina Stadium.
Junior catcher Grayson Greiner hugged him. Teammates slapped his back. It was different than your typical pitching change, a very brief pause before returning to baseball.
The raw emotion was no accident. It's been a trying week for South Carolina's baseball team. Coaches and players mourn with sophomore pitcher/first baseman Curt Britt, whose father Tommy died Thursday in a Charlotte hospital from complications with surgery.
Tommy Britt, 50, was airlifted to a Charlotte hospital two weeks ago with apparent bleeding on his brain, according to the Laurinburg (N.C.) Exchange. He was expected to make a full recovery, but he was put on life support Wednesday and eventually fell into a coma.
Montgomery had a dominant start Friday night against Campbell, allowing two runs with nine strikeouts and no walks in eight-plus innings as the Gamecocks began their NCAA tournament with a 5-2 victory. Afterward, the junior ace dedicated his performance to his teammate.
"Definitely, this year with the current events, I'm just trying to go out there and throw and trying to - we're all thinking about Curt Britt right now," Montgomery said. "So we're playing for him definitely, and trying to win for him and let him know that we love him, and that we've got his back no matter what."
As South Carolina continues its postseason journey, it's clear Curt Britt and his family will be in his teammates' and coaches' hearts.