Gamecocks breeze past punchless Cougars

USC's Christian Walker (13) congratulates Joey Pankake who homered in the seventh inning.

MOUNT PLEASANT — After a slow start, South Carolina caught fire in the middle stages of the game to roll to a 7-0 baseball victory over the College of Charleston on Wednesday at Patriots Point.

The 11th-ranked Gamecocks (22-8) got strong pitching performances from a trio of left-handers, limiting the Cougars (21-9) to only four hits while striking out a combined eight batters.

And South Carolina’s offense, led by shortstop Joey Pankake, tagged the Cougars for 13 hits, seven of which went for extra bases. Pankake went 3 for 5 with two doubles and a seventh-inning solo home run. Christian Walker, Brison Celek and Chase Vergason each had two hits for the Gamecocks.

“We really played a good game. Our guys pitched pretty well,” South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. “We played one of our better games of the season. I know Monte (Cougars coach Monte Lee) is disappointed in his team striking out so much.”

South Carolina got the only run it needed in the first inning, and that was pretty much a gift from the Cougars. Charleston shortstop Bradley Goodson lost a high fly ball by Pankake and the ball fell between a trio of fielders, allowing Pankake to reach second. He eventually scored on an infield grounder by L.B. Dantzler.

Things were quiet until the fifth when South Carolina added a single run. The Gamecocks scored two more in the sixth, Pankake’s homer in the seventh and two more runs in the eighth.

“Adam Westmoreland (the Gamecocks starter) filled the strike zone up. (Tyler) Webb and (Nolan) Belcher pretty much did the same thing,” Lee said.

“I’m very frustrated with our offense and have been for about a week. We all know pitching and defense is important. But you have to score runs.”

Lee said the Cougars missed scoring opportunities early with the heart of the batting order at the plate, and “those players have to step up.”

“We have a better offense than we’ve been showing. I hope this weekend (an important Southern Conference series at league-leading Appalachian State) we can find a way to score more runs.”

Westmoreland picked up the victory for South Carolina, improving to 2-0. College of Charleston starter Ryan West (2-3) was charged with the loss.

The teams meet again April 17 in Columbia. South Carolina hosts Southeastern Conference opponent Tennessee in a three-game series this weekend.