ATHENS, Ga. - Junior LB Dantzler broke up a pitchers duel with a solo home run and senior Michael Roth threw a gem in South Carolina’s 3-0 victory over Georgia on Friday night at Foley Field. The Gamecocks (38-12, 17-8) put up a single run in each of the final three innings off Bulldogs (28-22, 12-13) starter Alex Wood, who pitched a complete game.
Junior LB Dantzler
It was easy to see early that both Roth and Wood brought their A-game to the park and runs would be at a premium. Wood made one mistake pitch and the Gamecocks manufactured two additional runs late in the game while Roth was on his game for seven-plus innings.
“He was really sharp. He did have the walks, but his stuff was good,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “He started showing that he can make a pitch. They weren’t able to square some of his better pitches, so that was good to see. Take out the walks and it was his best game of the year.”
Roth was brilliant, but it was Dantzler’s blast that turned momentum in favor of the Gamecocks.
“You know that one swing can change the game,” Dantzler said. “You just try and stay positive after the first few innings. Keep the same approach, try to keep the ball hard, and hope something good will happen.”
Roth scattered three hits and walked five, but made the big pitches when he had to in order to earn his fifth victory of the season against no losses. Wood, who ran his fastball as high as 95 mph on Friday, wasn’t far behind giving up three earned runs on nine hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
“I don’t know if it was the best, but it felt pretty good,” Roth said. “I was able to go out there and establish the fastball and put it where I wanted it. It helped me establish my changeup and slider.”
It was a crisp, well-played game but South Carolina executed when it mattered most at the plate.
Both teams had great chances to score prior to Dantzler’s go-ahead home run. The Gamecocks had two on with one out and junior Christian Walker, the team’s leading RBI producer, at the plate. Walker put the barrel of the bat on the ball, but his grounder was fielded by Wood, who started the 1-6-3 inning-ending double play. Wood needed every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to keep the Gamecocks off the board.
Freshman Grayson Greiner
“That was impressive,” Tanner said. “You don’t see many guys as good as Alex Wood.”
Roth wasn’t to be outdone as he got out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the sixth inning. After retiring the first hitter of the inning on a ground out, he issued two walks and a bloop single to center. The senior, however, came back to strike out Peter Verdin and Heath Holder to preserve the scoreless tie through six complete.
“I’m just trying to get the guy out, not necessarily trying to strike him out,” Roth said. “I knew I needed a ground ball or a swing and miss.”
Wood had retired 10 out of his previous 12 batters faced prior to Dantzler’s long ball.
“He was throwing extremely well,” Dantzler said. “He was throwing at least three, maybe four pitches, and spotting them all up for strikes. He did a really good job, but we were able to scratch a few across and Roth threw real well.”
The home run was a no-doubter off the bat and came down landing on the top of the scoreboard in right field. It was Dantzler’s ninth home run of the season, which ties him with Walker for the team lead.
“It was an (off-speed pitch) that he kind of left up,” Dantzler said. “He threw one earlier in the at-bat that was real good and I thought he would come back to it with two strikes. I was able to put a good swing on it.”
South Carolina added a run in each of the final two innings for the 3-0 final score. Junior Evan Marzilli grounded a two-out single through the right side to score junior Chase Vergason, who singled and was bunted to second, to double the USC lead.
In the ninth, junior Sean Sullivan executed a one-out squeeze bunt, which scored freshman Grayson Greiner from third base. Greiner reached on a triple, the first of his USC career, on a perfectly executed bunt.
“He’s a veteran guy and we knew we had a good shot to get an insurance run there and seal up the victory,” Greiner said.
It was a perfect time for a squeeze play but in an unconventional count. Sullivan squared to bunt with two strikes, which Tanner seemed almost shocked that he called.
“I probably did something I’ve never done before and will never do again and that’s squeeze with two strikes,” Tanner said. “I had the right guy up there; the crafty veteran. Somehow, I don’t know how, he got the ball down.”
The Bulldogs had the game-tying run come to the plate on three occasions after Tyler Webb allowed a lead off walk in the bottom of the ninth and then Matt Price gave up a single. Price, however, hunkered down and got the final three outs of the inning without the runner advancing past second base.
“Webb got some big outs,” Tanner said. “Price made it interesting but he got some big strikeouts there at the end.”
The Gamecocks’ pitching staff combined to allow only five hits on the night, two of which came off the bat of Levi Hyams. South Carolina totaled nine hits, including multi-hit games by Marzilli and Dantzler.
South Carolina and Georgia will meet in game two on Saturday at 1 p.m. Freshman Jordan Montgomery will get the ball for the Gamecocks. Georgia will counter with RHP Michael Palazzone.