For the first time this season, South Carolina sits at .500 in SEC play.
The Gamecocks followed up a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Mississippi State Friday night with a 5-3 win over the Bulldogs to take the three-game series at Carolina Stadium Saturday afternoon. South Carolina improves to 26-10 overall and 7-7 in the SEC while Mississippi State falls to 21-14 and 5-9.
The Gamecocks started the conference slate 1-5. And while there have still been some bumps along the way, they've managed to go 6-2 since then to even things up just one game before the halfway point of SEC play.
"We've been playing uphill for a while now," head coach Ray Tanner said. "We started out with the 0-3 in Lexington, and we've been battling back to get to this point. Of course, you get to this point and now you want to get over .500, so hopefully well play well (Sunday)."
South Carolina got another strong start from freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery who pitched 6.1 innings and have up just a single run on five hits to earn the win.
"I was just trying to go out there and throw all four of my pitches for strikes," Montgomery said. "Today, I only had three of them, so I just worked off those, and tried to hit the glove whenever I could.
For the time being, Montgomery's play solidifies a spot that had been in the air for much of the season.
One of the biggest issues in the Gamecocks' earlier losses had been stranding runners and a lack of two-out hitting.
In Saturday's win, all five South Carolina runs came with two outs.
"It's been a little bit better for us," Tanner said. "I kept telling the players, we had done a pretty good job in the first half [of the season]. ... We were hitting okay, but run-scoring situations, bases loaded situations, we weren't doing much at all.
"Now, we're starting to get some [hits]. And that's encouraging."
South Carolina got on the board in the third when LB Dantzler singled up the middle to bring home two runs and put the Gamecocks up 2-0.
South Carolina tacked on another in the fifth on a Christian Walker RBI single to make it 3-0.
Tanner English, who led the team with three hits, tripled to deep centerfield in the sixth to extend the lead to 4-0. And Joey Pankake then beat out an infield hit to score English and make it 5-0 Carolina.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Tanner said. "They did."
That run came in the form of a three-run seventh.
With one out, Trey Porter's deep solo home run to right gave the Bulldogs their first run of the game. Tyler Webb then replaced Montgomery, but he have up a single, a ground-rule double and a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 5-2. Evan Beal came in but didn't have his best stuff either -- two wild pitches later and it was a 5-3 game.
Nolan Belcher came in and recorded the final out of the inning on an easy grounder that he fielded and fired to first.
South Carolina then turned to its All-American closer Matt Price who allowed two hits but no runs to finish off the final two innings and earn the save.
South Carolina will go for the sweep with Colby Holmes on the hill tomorrow and first pitch scheduled for 1:30.
"We're definitely not a finished product, but we're kind of starting to figure it out," Dantzler said. "Hopefully, we can keep going. We have a big game tomorrow, so we need to come out and keep the same energy and intensity."