COLUMBIA - From the moment Wil Crowe stepped on the mound Sunday afternoon, he was thinking nine innings.
He knew how important a complete game was to his team. It's a lot to ask of a freshman pitcher making his first NCAA postseason start. It's even more to ask for a team to win three games in 24 hours, which the Gamecocks will have to do if they win their fifth straight regional.
Crowe delivered, as he has much of the season. His complete game shutout led No. 1 South Carolina in a 9-0 win over No. 4 Campbell before a crowd of 5,986 at Carolina Stadium. More important, it kept South Carolina's pitching staff fresh.
"I knew that we needed a good outing," Crowe said. "I knew that I needed to go deep in the game, especially when we've got a game tonight. So I went into it thinking if I could keep my pitch count down and everything, I could help the team out for later."
The Gamecocks must beat No. 2 seed Maryland twice in less than 24 hours to win the NCAA Columbia Regional. The Terrapins beat the Gamecocks 4-3 on Saturday night, snapping USC's 28-game home postseason winning streak. It was the first time South Carolina has ever lost a postseason game at Carolina Stadium.
South Carolina spotted Crowe nine runs Sunday afternoon, more than enough for the hard-throwing right hander. Crowe overwhelmed Campbell's lineup, allowing four hits with four strikeouts and no walks. He threw 101 pitches.
"It was an incredible performance by Wil," Holbrook said. "That was no doubt the story of this game. He was as efficient as I've seen him since he's been here with his command - fastball, breaking ball, changeup. He was in total control out there. It was a masterful performance by him to go nine innings. We obviously needed that under the circumstances that we're under, coming out of the loser's bracket. It as an incredible performance by him to give us a better opportunity in the game tonight because we obviously got to rest our bullpen."
The Gamecocks have only used five pitchers in three games this weekend, and only three for more than two innings. That'll be important as they try to win two games against Maryland in the next 24 hours. The Terrapins snapped USC's 28-game home postseason winning streak with a 4-3 win Saturday night.
With an even bigger game looming Sunday night, it will be easy to overlook Crowe's performance. The freshman said he'll never forget it.
"It means a lot," Crowe said. "It helped us a lot. We had our backs against the wall. Now we live to fight another day."
Or, at least a night.