A few new faces made a huge impact at the dish and some familiar ones on the mound stifled the VMI Keydets as USC limited its opponent to just four runs in three games. Six freshmen started throughout the weekend.
"We need those guys to play well immediately," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "Guys that are filling the departure shoes of some of our guys… because we lost those veteran guys in the infield."
The first two games of the series were pitching duels decided by one run. Michael Roth gave a strong six inning effort in Game 1, letting up just one run. But VMI's Coby Cowgill was equally stellar, and the game remained tied entering the bottom of the eighth.
Junior college transfer LB Dantzler got his first hit as a Gamecock in a huge way, driving in the game-winning run to give Carolina a 2-1 victory in its home opener.
The second and third games were both played Saturday as a doubleheader to avoid expected thunderstorms.
Game 2 was a similar story to the first. It was another low-scoring affair, with Matt Price making his first appearance as the Gamecocks' Saturday starter after spending the last two years as the Gamecocks' closer. Price showed us the same knee-buckling slider and overwhelming fastball as we're used to seeing from him at the end of games. But in the sixth inning, he wore down and lost control.
"All of a sudden, he lost control, hit a wall, whatever the case may be. You have to be a little bit concerned," Tanner said. "But I've been around Matt Price for awhile, and he seems to get things straightened out when he struggles a little bit."
Price didn't surrender a single hit to the Keydets, but walked three and hit three on 89 pitches and five innings.
With the game tied at two a piece in the sixth, another new face came up in the clutch. This time, it was Dante Rosenburg, a junior who's recorded just two at bats as a Gamecock.
Rosenburg drove one off the very top of the left field wall, scoring the go-ahead runner Joey Pankake to put USC up 3-2. Ethan Carter, in relief of Price, pitched four scoreless innings and earned the win.
In Game three, the pitching was perhaps more dominant than it had been in the previous two games. Colby Holmes was overpowering for five innings, striking out six and allowing no runs on one hit. But in this game, Gamecock fans didn't do nearly as much sweating. Carolina blew the game open with an eight-run fourth inning, which featured several "firsts".
We saw the first home run of the 2012 season, a three-run shot off the bat of LB Dantzler. The homer was a no-doubter over the right field wall that was served as Dantzler's first home run in garnet and black. We also saw freshman Connor Bright get his first RBI and score his first run. Bright was thrown in at second base, not his natural position, and took full advantage of the opportunity.
"Coach just came up to me and was like you're at second base this game, just out of nowhere," Bright said. "I was happy to get out there and get my feet under me, and get my first hit in my first at bat."
Another freshman would get his first career dinger later on. TJ Costen launched a two-run shot over the left field wall in the bottom of the eighth to bring the Gamecocks' run total to 13. He drove in Kyle Martin, a freshman first basemen who was 3-for-5 on the day.
A slew of South Carolina relievers finished off the victory as USC finished off the sweep with a power surge.
The Gamecocks will stay in Columbia for a weekend series at home against Elon next week