It was another banner day for the pitching staff as South Carolina kept its record perfect with a 3-2 victory over Elon to take the series on Saturday afternoon at Carolina Stadium. The Gamecocks’ pitching staff struck out 16 hitters, which is one shy of the school record.
Sophomore Forrest Koumas picked up his second save of the season.
Junior Matt Price picked up his first victory of the season tossing five innings and allowed only one hit while striking out eight. Junior Tyler Webb followed him with seven strikeouts over 3.2 innings and sophomore Forrest Koumas registered his only out of the game with a K to pick up his second save.
The school record for strikeouts in a game by a USC staff is 17, which has been accomplished six times, most recently against Valparaiso on March 10, 2010.
“Outstanding pitching gave us a chance to win today,” Tanner said. “Matt Price was really good and the job Tyler did was impressive. Koumas came in and made a couple of good pitches as well.”
The Gamecocks (5-0) were able to get just enough offense in the game scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning and another in the fifth.
South Carolina opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning by plating a pair of runs. Junior Christian Walker upped his RBI total to six on the weekend by shooting a single to right field to score the first run. Freshman Grayson Greiner reached on a fielders choice to bring home the second run of the inning and give him two RBIs on the season.
With the way the Gamecocks have pitched this season that would seem to be all the runs the staff would need. Price lost his no-hit bid in the top of the fifth when Jake Luce singled to right field. It was the first hit that Price allowed this season in 9.2 innings.
After retiring the final hitter of the inning, Price would give way to Webb in the sixth. The right-hander threw 82 pitches and allowed one hit and one walk. He tied a career high with eight strikeouts in the game, which was one higher than his opening weekend performance against VMI.
“My arm felt great today,” Price said. “I talked to coach, and he put me on a pitch count. Once we got to that pitch count, he told me I was done. Webb backed me up today and did a great job.”
The Gamecocks missed a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth inning. The first three hitters reached base without the ball leaving the infield. Junior Adam Matthews reached on a throwing error by the shortstop while Evan Marzilli and Tanner English both reached on bunt singles.
The heart of the order was due up, but Walker grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, which scored a run but took away the chance at a big inning. The Gamecocks were up 3-0 through five and the bullpen was able to hang on to the lead.
“We didn’t swing the bats as much as I’d like to see us, but we did execute the short game a little bit,” Tanner said. “That gave us a chance to win today.”
Webb pitched three innings of perfect relief for the Gamecocks. He struck out six and registered three ground ball outs - one to first base, second base, and the shortstop.
There were some anxious moments in the ninth after an error gave Elon some life. With two down, second baseman Connor Bright let a spinning grounder off the end of the bat roll through his legs. After a hit-by-pitch and a single, Webb left with a run in and runners on the corners.
Sophomore Forrest Koumas came in looking for his second save but the game got closer after Garrett Koster, the home run hitter from Friday night, grounded an RBI single back up the middle to bring his team to within a run. Koumas, however, settled down to strike out pinch hitter Connor Lewis for the final out of the game.
It was the second career save for Koumas, who threw 12 pitches in his outing. South Carolina pitchers combined to strike out 16 hitters, which is the most since a 2010 drubbing of Valparasio.
For the season, Webb has six innings pitched allowing two hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts.
South Carolina and Elon will meet in the final game of the series on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Junior Colby Holmes is scheduled to get the ball for the Gamecocks and will be opposed by right-hander David Whitehead for the Phoenix.