Sophomore left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery pitched his first career complete game (and his first career shutout) on the road against the No. 1 team in the nation – delivering a command performance at a do-or-die moment for his team.
Thanks to Montgomery’s four-hit gem – and an eight-run offensive outburst from his teammates – the University of South Carolina baseball team will live to fight another day against top-seeded North Carolina in the NCAA Super Regional in Chapel Hill, N.C. In fact the Gamecocks (43-19) are now 10-1 in elimination games dating back to the 2010 season – a streak they will look to extend against the Tar Heels (56-10) on Monday.
After dropping the opening game of the series 6-5 on Saturday, South Carolina erupted for five runs in the second inning on Sunday – including a two-run double by sophomore shortstop Joey Pankake. That was all the offense the Gamecocks would need as Montgomery was in total command of his repertoire, most notably a steady diet of off-speed pitches that kept the Tar Heels’ batters guessing all afternoon.
In addition to giving up only four hits, the Sumter, S.C. native walked just one batter – although the mistake-prone Gamecock defense did commit three errors.
“He was terrific from pitch one,” first year head coach Chad Holbrook said. “Jordan was able to pitch around a couple errors there, three errors. That’s how good he was. Usually when you make three errors against a team like North Carolina they are going to make you pay, but Jordan was just too good today.”
Sophomore Tanner English had a monster game for USC – at the plate, on the base paths and in the field. The fleet-footed center fielder went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and one run batted in. He also stole three bases and made a diving catch in the ninth inning to rob UNC freshman phenom Skye Bolt of an extra base hit.
“I was just trying to do all the little things right,” said English. “Trying to help the team out any way I could.”
Montgomery’s clutch complete game did more than just quiet the Tar Heel bats (and a record crowd of 4,365 at Boshamer Stadium), it gave Holbrook plenty of flexibility in choosing fresh arms for Monday’s deciding game. Meanwhile North Carolina sent six pitchers to the mound on Sunday – and has used ten pitchers during the two-game series.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Jake Wynkoop (7-3, 2.92 ERA) will likely start Monday’s game for USC, while North Carolina is expected to send sophomore right-handed pitcher Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78 ERA) to the mound.
North Carolina – which hasn’t lost back-to-back games all season – is 1-0 in deciding Super Regional games. South Carolina is 1-4.
The Gamecocks have advanced to each of the last three College World Series finals – defeating UCLA and Florida in 2010 and 2011, respectively, to capture the school’s first-ever national championships in a major sport. Last year USC came up short against Arizona in its effort to pull off the three-peat.