Frigid temperatures and whipping winds may have driven fans out of the stands at Carolina Stadium, but they did nothing to cool USC’s bats as the Gamecocks completed the midweek sweep with a 14-4 victory over Ball State Wednesday night in Carolina Stadium.
In one of the few games this year when Gamecock pitchers struggled to keep their opposition off of the bases, USC racked up 14 hits to beat the Cardinals by ten runs for the second straight night. The Gamecocks’ second straight game with double-digit runs gives them 32 runs over the past three games.
Spearheading the offensive explosion was sophomore shortstop Joey Pankake, whose two-out three-run homer in the second inning broke the 1-1 tie and gave the Gamecocks the lead for good. Pankake would finish the day 2-3 with three RBI, two runs, two walks, and a hit by pitch.
“Joey [Pankake] was impressive in batting practice today,” USC head coach Chad Holbrook said. “Now that he is finally healthy, he was able to swing the bat like he’s able to swing it.”
After Ball State second baseman Ryan Spaulding’s third-inning sac fly scored the Cardinal’s second run in the top of the third innings, USC struck again to plate two runs in the bottom of the frame.
Facing Ball State lefty Clay Manering with the bases loaded and no outs, USC left fielder Graham Saiko delivered an RBI sac fly that scored freshman DH George Iskenderian, who was making his first career start. Chase Vergason knocked in the next run with an RBI single that scored right fielder Sean Sullivan–who was pinch hitting for an injured Tanner English–from second.
English left the game earlier in the third with a shoulder injury he sustained throwing home on a sacrifice fly. Coaches have yet to comment on English’s status for the Rider series.
George Iskenderian’s day didn’t end with the scored run, though. The freshman third baseman continued to pull his weight from the DH position, going 2-5 with two runs and an RBI.
“George swings the bat like a DH should swing the bat and he is going to continue DH’ing some,” Holbrook said of the freshman. “He’s got a bright future ahead and he’s going to get more opportunities.”
USC expanded the lead to 7-2 in the bottom of the sixth when Max Schrock scored from third on a Grayson Greiner RBI single. Ball State responded with a run in each of the seventh and eight innings to cut the lead to three, but USC put the game away with a seven-run outburst in the bottom of the eighth.
On the other side of the ball, things didn’t go as planned for USC’s pitching staff, as Ball State piled up 12 hits. Freshman right-handed pitcher Curt Britt got his first career start, but his first pitch was yanked over the right field fence by Ball State left fielder Blake Beemer. It didn’t get much better from there for Britt, as he gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in 3.1 innings pitched.
Patrick Sullivan was solid in relief, working through the seventh, allowing one run and scattering five hits and two walks. Sullivan struck out five of the 17 he faced and earned his first win of the season.
“I was glad to get back on the rubber, it felt like it had been awhile,” Sullivan said of his performance. “I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes. In that first outing, I was pulling out a lot, so I just wanted to make sure I stayed through and get some pitches in.”
Senior lefty Adam Westmoreland couldn’t finish the eighth, giving up a run on two hits and a walk before handing it over with two men on base to fellow senior Tyler Webb, who struck out the next batter on three pitches to end the inning.
Junior Josh Knab made his second appearance of the year in the ninth, giving up a single to Spaulding but forcing Ball State DH Cody Campbell to ground into a double play to end the game.
The Gamecocks’ third straight win gives them a 10-2 record on the year.
“All in all it was a good win,” Holbrook said. “It was good to get the tenth win and it was good to play clean. There is certainly a lot we need to work on and improve on, but all in all, it was a good day.”
USC takes the field again Friday at 7 p.m. for a three-game weekend series against Rider in Carolina Stadium.
Fun Stat: USC racked up five stolen bases on the day, three of them coming from freshman Max Schrock who now has a team-leading six on the year.