Forrest Koumas struck out a career-high six batters in relief of starter Adam Westmoreland and Carolina overcame another early deficit to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs, 8-3, Sunday afternoon at Carolina Stadium. After losing game one Friday night, the Gamecocks rebounded to take two of three.
There was little excitement to this one, but the results were the same.
A night after scoring the game-winning run with two outs in the ninth, the South Carolina baseball team did not need the late-game heroics to win the rubber. Adam Matthews went 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored and Forrest Koumas struck out a career-high six batters to pick up the win as the Gamecocks knocked off Georgia 8-3 at Carolina Stadium. Matt Price pitched the eighth and ninth to pick up the save.
"(We're)Very happy to be able to win our first series after losing the opener and trailing most of the day yesterday," Gamecock coach Ray Tanner said. "To have won the first series is big. I thought our guys battled hard and played hard. We got stellar pitching all weekend - they got us in a position to win. The bullpen came up big. Koumas got some big outs and John Taylor was stellar once again."
After solid starting pitching in each of the first two games, Sunday's game was anything but a pitchers duel. Both starters were out by the third inning and the two teams combined to use 12 pitchers in a battle of the bullpens, which the Gamecocks won thanks in large part to Koumas and John Taylor. Koumas went 3.1 to earn his second victory of the season, giving up just two hits, one earned run, walked three, and struck out six Bulldogs. Taylor came in to relieve Koumas, going 2.1 innings, giving up no runs, no hits, no walks, and one strikeout. Closer Matt Price came in to close the game out, pitching the final two innings - striking out the side in the eighth - to pick up the save.
"We like to get a quality start," Taylor said. "That's rough on (Adam Westmoreland's) part and he'll bounce back. Coach Meyers talked about getting into a battle of the bullpens yesterday. He said he thinks we could outperform them and that's what we did. Everybody chipped in and did their job."
"The good news is Taylor is very resilient," Tanner said of his bullpen's outing. "He can pitch even when he's thrown too many pitches - he can still bounce back and he had a lot of gas in his tank today. I asked him before the game and he said 'I can go as long as you need me out there.' Our design was to go with Koumas - he got some big outs - but he's still trying to find his way a little bit. I think he had three walks, but again, he got some big outs for us."
South Carolina starter Westmoreland barely made it out of the first inning, leaving after putting the first three batters on in the second inning - none of which recorded a hit. Westmoreland finished giving up two earned runs, one hit, one walk, two hit batters, and two strikeouts.
Georgia starter Craig Gullickson didn't fare much better. Gullickson made it through the second, but gave up four hits, two earned runs, walked two, and struck out one.
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first in nearly the same manner as they did in Saturday's game. In the second inning, Westmoreland hit Brett DeLoach, walked Kyle Farmer and hit Jonathan Hester. That ended Westmoreland's day after just one-plus inning. Forrest Koumas came in to relieve Westmoreland and got Joey Delmonico to fly out to Adam Matthews in right, but it was deep enough to score DeLoach and advance Farmer to third. After striking out Peter Verdin, Curt Powell lined one to right to score Farmer and give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. Koumas walked Levi Hyams to again load the bases, but worked out of the jam by getting Zach Cone to fly out to left to strand the runners.
The Gamecocks came right back in their half of the second. Brady Thomas led off with a single through Hester at first that was ruled a single. After Robert Beary grounded into a fielder's choice that retired Thomas, Peter Mooney lined one over second with Beary advancing to third on the play. Scott Wingo grounded one past a diving Hester and into right field to score Beary and advance Mooney to third. After Jackie Bradley Jr struck out, Adam Mathews lined one to left that just dropped in front of Davidson. Mooney scored to tie the game but Davidson threw out Wingo at third to end the inning with the game tied at 2-2.
Gullickson's day ended after that inning as Perno elected to bring in Eric Swegman. It seemed to be a good move as Swegman retired Christian Walker on an 'excuse me' swing and struck Adrian Morales out. That's when Carolina gave Georgia a dose of their own medicine. Swegman walked Jake Williams and Thomas on eight consecutive balls. Beary came through with a 2-out single back up the middle to score Williams and give Carolina a 3-2 lead. Thomas advanced to third on the play and Beary took second on the throw. John Herman came in to replace Swegman and retired Mooney to end the inning.
Georgia got the run right back in heir half of the fourth. After a Delmonico strikeout, Verdin - a .172 batter coming in - hit his second triple of the season off the wall in left. Koumas came back to strike out Powell, but a balk on Koumas before his first pitch to Hyams brought Verdin home. Hyams went down swinging for Koumas' fifth consecutive strikeout to end the inning with the game tied at 3-3.
As was the case the previous inning, Carolina struck back in its half of the fourth. After Wingo drew a 4-pitch walk, Bradley Jr. battled from a hole to draw a walk to end Herman's day and Perno went with Earl Daniels. After Matthews sacrificed the runners over, Walker grounded out to short with Wingo scoring on the play to give the Gamecocks the lead back. After a Morales walk ended Daniels's brief outing, Blake Dieterich became the fifth Bulldog pitcher. After hitting Williams to load the bases, Dieterich got Thomas to pop up in foul territory to third to get out of trouble as the Gamecocks led 4-3.
Carolina added an insurance run in the sixth. Matthews and Walker singled - Matthews moving to third on Walker's single - and Morales scored Matthews on a ground out to short.
The Gamecocks put the game out of reach with three runs in the eighth. Matthews singled and moved to second on a passed ball. Walker hit a grounder to short, but Farmer tried to throw Matthews out at third. The throw got away from Powell A.D. Matthews scored with Walker advancing to second. After a Morales ground out to short advanced Walker to third, Michael Roth pinch hit. Roth drew a walk and Jake Watson came in to pinch run. Thomas struck out looking for the second out, but Watson stole second on strike three. Marzilli - who entered for defensive purposes in the top of the inning - laced the first pitch he saw past short to score Walker and Watson and legged out a double to give the Gamecocks the final margin of 8-3.
Matthew's - who was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored - got each of the last two rally's started after struggling for much of the season.
"You have to make sure you pick (the ball) up early," Matthews said. "I've been struggling the past week and a half or so. I thought I had a pretty good series this weekend. When you're struggling it's a lot tougher than when you're seeing the ball well. This weekend I saw it well and kept my foot down and hit it."
Bradley Jr continues his struggles at the plate, failing to record a hit the entire series. With the best hitter struggling, the defense recording six errors, and some pitchers struggling, the Gamecocks were very fortunate to take two of three from a Georgia team that has been playing well.
"You don't want to have those things happen," Tanner said. "A lot of times when your guys aren't getting hits or your guys aren't making pitches, you don't win. We were able to win. Jackie's going to be fine - there's a lot of great players that go through slumps and he's having a tough time right now. I think we'll still get better. We'll continue to get a little bit better too."
Carolina will play five games over the next week. The Gamecocks will host former Tanner assistant Monte Lee and his Charleston Cougars Tuesday, then host Rhode Island on Wednesday before heading down to Florida to take on the #1 Gators next weekend. Tanner says Tyler Webb or Colby Holmes will get the start Tuesday and hasn't ruled out Westmoreland returning to pitch Wednesday's game.