Jordan Montgomery twirled a four-hit shutout and the South Carolina offense parlayed eight hits, nine walks and five stolen bases into eight runs, as the Gamecocks cruised to an 8-0 win over North Carolina in Game 2 of the best-of-3 Super Regional Series at Boshamer Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Montgomery (6-1) was spectacular all day as he tossed the first complete game of his career, walking one while fanning three. Despite three fielding errors by the Gamecock infielders, only four Tar Heel runners advanced as far as second base and none reached third. He threw 121 pitches while quieting a record attendance crowd of 4,365.
"Obviously are team played very well today for the most part," said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. "Jordan was incredible. To shut out a team like North Carolina, that's an awfully hard task to do. He was terrific from pitch one. 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."
With the win, the Gamecocks improved to 43-19 on the season while top-seeded North Carolina dropped to 56-10.
Montgomery, a sophomore lefthander, has been outstanding in his four starts over two seasons in the NCAA Tournament for the Garnet & Black. He is 4-0 with a 0.59 ERA, surrendering just two runs on 15 hits over 30.2 innings. He has allowed just three walks while fanning 26 batters in posting wins over Clemson and Arkansas in 2012 and Liberty and North Carolina in 2013.
"The elimination game kind of gave me a little more incentive to do (well)," said Montgomery. "I didn't want our seniors to go out that way, so I just wanted to get a win and try to (help) get them back to Omaha."
The Gamecocks got all the runs they would need when they sent nine batters to the plate in a five-run second inning. Max Schrock led off the frame with a double down the first-base line and advanced to third on TJ Costen's ground out. After Kyle Martin coaxed a walk on a 10-pitch at-bat, Tanner English pushed a bunt single to first, scoring Schrock with the game's first run. After Graham Saiko's flyout advanced Martin to third, English stole second. Chase Vergason walked to load the bases. Joey Pankake delivered a key two-out, two-run double just inside the left field line, putting the Gamecocks on top 3-0. LB Dantzler capped the uprising with a two-run single to right, extending the lead to five and sending Tar Heel starter Hobbs Johnson to an early shower. Johnson (4-1) was tagged with the loss, his first in five decisions this season.
The Gamecocks extended their lead in the fourth without the benefit of a hit. North Carolina right-hander Reilly Hovis walked Saiko and Vergason to open the inning. Both runners advanced on Pankake's chopper in front of the plate. Dantzler was walked intentionally, then Greiner walked, forcing in Saiko with the Gamecocks' sixth run. Taylore Cherry replaced Hovis and worked out of the bases loaded jam, getting an infield pop out and a strikeout, to avoid any further damage.
South Carolina used its speed to add a pair of runs in the fifth. English singled to deep short with one out and promptly stole second. After Saiko walked, both runners advanced on a double steal, giving English a career-high three stolen bases on the day. He entered the game with just six stolen bases on the season. Vergason hit a deep sacrifice fly to right, scoring English and sending Saiko to third. Third baseman Colin Moran was unable to handle Pankake's bouncer for an error, scoring Saiko and putting the Gamecocks comfortably ahead 8-0.
That was more than enough for Montgomery, who was aided by a tremendous diving catch by English in center field, robbing Skye Bolt of extra bases leading off the ninth inning.
"I was just trying to do all the little things right," said English. "Trying to help the team out any way I could. Whether it was getting a bunt down or making a catch in the outfield, (I was) just trying to not do too much and just played my role on the team."
The rubber game of the series will be played Monday at 7pm on ESPN2. The Gamecocks are expected to send freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop (7-3, 2.92 ERA) to the hill. He will be opposed by Tar Heel right-hander Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78 ERA). The winner will advance to the College World Series, which will begin Saturday, June 15, in Omaha, Neb.
"The series is now 1-1," added Holbrook. "We haven't really accomplished anything or won anything. We are not in a position where we can feel too good about ourselves. We have nine innings to go and hopefully we can come out with some energy and play well tomorrow."
SOUTH CAROLINA KEY GAME NOTES
Dating back to the 2010 season, South Carolina is 8-1 in elimination games in the postseason. South Carolina went 4-0 in Omaha in 2010 and won three games in 2012 at the CWS with a loss to Arizona in the CWS Finals.
Jordan Montgomery's first career shutout was the second shutout of the season by a Gamecock pitcher. Nolan Belcher pitched the previous shutout vs. Clemson on March 3 in an 8-0 victory over the Tigers.
Montgomery's shutout was the first by a Gamecock pitcher in the postseason since Chris Hernandez on May 30, 2003 when Hernandez pitched a five-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over East Carolina in the NCAA Regional in Atlanta, Ga.
The Gamecocks' top two hitters of the postseason did not have a hit but factored into Sunday's win. Despite not getting a hit, sophomore first baseman Kyle Martin had a key walk and scored a run. He is the team's leading hitter with a .450 average (9-for-20), a homer, six RBI and seven runs scored. Graham Saiko had three walks and two runs scored in Sunday's win. He also has hit well in five postseason games with a .429 average (6-for-14) with six runs scored and six RBI in five postseason games.
Freshman Max Schrock went 3-for-5 with a run scored. His three hits are the most by him in a game since he tallied four at Tennessee on April 7, 2013.
South Carolina is hitting .339 as a team in the postseason (62-for-183) with 45 runs scored and a .423 on-base percentage. The Gamecocks have a team ERA of 2.42 in 44.2 innings pitched with nine walks to 40 strikeouts, opponents batting just .224 against the squad.