Clemson Weekend Recap: Gamecocks Remain On Top

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USC clinched the series with an 8-0 victory over Clemson Sunday afternoon in Carolina Stadium, continuing the dominance the program has enjoyed over the Tigers in recent years. As the team moves past a great win and prepares for the upcoming midweek series against Ball State, here’s a few observations from another weekend of USC baseball.

Jordan Montgomery may not be Michael Roth, but he’s well on his way.

Jordan MontgomeryStepping into the shoes of one of college baseball’s most dynamic pitchers of the past three seasons is a difficult test for any pitcher, but Jordan Montgomery is figuring it out as he goes. The sophomore lefty tossed eight scoreless innings in his third win of the season Friday against Clemson, rolling up a career-high nine strikeouts while limiting the Tigers to three hits and two walks.

Montgomery looked like Roth incarnate as he tied his career high for innings pitched, tossing 112 pitches after never going more than six innings this season. No Clemson batter made it past second base in the eight dominating innings the sophomore pitched.

“Jordan Montgomery was the story of the game,” Holbrook said. “Incredible performance by him…He’s an unflappable kid. He doesn’t mind tight moments. He doesn’t mind pitching with runners in scoring position. He’s a heck of a competitor. The bigger the situation, Jordan tends to pitch better.”

Roth didn’t begin to emerge as a key player for USC until the end of his sophomore year. Considering all that Montgomery has accomplished already in his young career at South Carolina, the sky is the limit for the wiry left-hander.

Gamecock relievers were rock-solid.

Though only two relievers–Tyler Webb and Adam Westmoreland–saw time against Clemson this weekend, both played to their potential against the Tigers. Senior closer Tyler Webb made the series’ first relief appearance in the ninth inning of Friday’s game, striking out all three batters to secure the win.

The Gamecocks got a poor outing from starter Colby Holmes the next day in Greenville, but reliever Adam Westmoreland was there to pick up the slack. The senior lefty gave up a hit to the first batter he faced, but retired the next 11 batters in a row. He would give up the final run of the 6-3 loss, but struck out seven and only surrendered three hits in 4.1 innings pitched. A dependable bullpen is crucial to a team’s postseason success, and USC appears to have two formidable relievers to build around.

The decision to give Shon Carson a roster spot will pay off this year.

Shon CarsonChad Holbrook said before the season that Carson would get one of the final spots on USC’s 35-man roster, deciding that the outfielder’s skill set would benefit the team in late-game situations. Holbrook’s decision has paid off so far, as Carson has already appeared in several games as a a situational player.

When DH Brison Celek led off the fifth inning of Friday’s game in Clemson with a base knock to right field, Holbrook turned to Carson to deliver South Carolina’s first run. Later in the inning, the speedster scored from third on a bang-bang play at the plate as Tanner English grounded out to short. More clutch baserunning from Carson will continue to validate Holbrook’s decision to give him a roster spot.

Belcher can hold his own on the weekend rotation.

After just edging Jack Wynkoop among others for the Sunday starting job in the spring, Belcher has proved three outings into the season that he can be trusted to deliver a win in the final game of a weekend series–even against tough competition. After the Tigers roughed up USC’s Colby Holmes Saturday in Greenville for their only win of the series, Belcher returned the favor on Sunday, pitching a complete game shutout while holding the Tigers to three hits.

The senior lefty was on his game for all nine innings, keeping Clemson batters off balance and making them look silly chasing perfectly-timed off speed pitches. His seven strikeouts on the day give him a team-leading 23 on the year. “Nolan Belcher was fantastic,” Holbrook said. “It was a great win, and it was unbelievable being able to watch Belcher perform.”

Photo Credit: GoGamecocks OrangeandWhite

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