We can’t say enough good things about the pitching performance of Jordan Montgomery on Thursday night, which gave the Gamecocks the chance to play a winner-take-all game tonight with a berth in the national championship series on the line–with a fully-staffed bullpen available. Let’s take one final look back at Carolina’s crucial victory over the Razorbacks Thursday night.
Freshman on the big stage
Most freshman pitchers would have caved under the pressure. Heck, most pitchers of any age would have caved under the pressure. Facing elimination, with a weary defense playing behind him that had already logged nine innings on the day, going up against an Arkansas lineup very capable of scoring runs in huge bunches, Montgomery delivered what was certainly the best pitching performance of his young career with the Gamecocks. He had Arkansas hitters off-balance all night, with a steady diet of changeups to compliment his fastball. Just when the Razorbacks thought they had him figured out, he’d throw a nasty breaking ball, and the hitters were simply hog-tied. Between Montgomery’s 8 innings, Roth’s 9, and Price’s 1, Gamecock pitchers combined to face just 57 batters in two games–three over the minimum. The man teammates nicknamed “Gumby” for his long arms and lanky frame has put the Gamecocks in position to win a third consecutive elimination game and advance to its third consecutive championship series.
Just enough timely hitting
I’ve been all over the Gamecocks this week for failing to take full advantage of scoring opportunities. And while much of the criticism (lovingly delivered, of course) has been deserved, the team did enough last night to get the victory. It was able to get to Arkansas starter Randall Fant early, chase him after scoring a couple of runs, then use a stellar pitching performance and flashy defense to make a small lead seem insurmountable. Sound familiar? It should, because that’s exactly how the Gamecocks have been winning games for three years now. It may cause us to all have horrible blood pressure, but it sure is fun to watch.
Saving the bullpen
This is another point that’s been made ad nauseum over the last few days, but the importance of Roth’s and Montgomery’s performances keeping the bullpen quiet has can’t be overstated. Colby Holmes is likely to get the start tonight, but was ineffective in short work against this same Arkansas lineup on Monday. With everyone available to pitch tonight, the Gamecocks can patch together a nine innings from multiple pitchers if Holmes again struggles against Razorback hitters. Keeping Arkansas hitters off-balance could be key to earning a victory tonight and the right to face Arizona in the championship series.