Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Young Gamecock squad passes first major hurdle

Okay, okay.  Michael Roth is a total veteran, and so are Adam Matthews, Evan Marzilli and Christian Walker.  And sure, a few other names also are hardly rookies on the roster but when it comes to position players Carolina’s squad feels like a bunch of talented fawns trying to get their legs under them. 
Pankake, Vergason, Dantzler, Greiner, Costen and English aren’t household names in Columbia yet, and some growing pains and bad plays were going to be in the cards early on in 2012.  Pankake and Dantzler have drawn most of the spotlight for errors, totaling 8 of the team’s 12 between them.  There is no question the surgical precision of infield play Gamecock fans enjoyed the last two years is not there yet.  (Frankly, we haven’t seen the last of the bumps and bruises we’re going to face in the first half of the year.  I wish we got the Gators a bit later this year but I digress.) 
Anyway, here came the angry and nationally ranked Tiggers.  Clemson planned to jump on the young Gamecocks early and often, focused like a laser on winning at least 2 this weekend.  Jack Leggett would have sold his soul to end the tremendous recent run in the rivalry by the Gamecocks.  Instead, Ray Tanner ran his overall record against Clemson in Columbia to 32-26, including 15 of the last 22 and 30-21 since 2000!
Friday night’s game in Charleston was a classic. It was an intense atmosphere from start to finish, full of high drama and big plays by both teams.  The crowd was electric, split down the middle and everyone got after it.  Roth was brilliant as expected, and only gave up a run from a bang-bang play at home.  That was just enough to keep him from landing another win against the orangies from the upstate because Brady was just as good.  Extra innings, heroic timely hits from USC and one of the finest catches you ever saw ended the contest 3-2 in our favor.  Then on Saturday, Carolina locked down the 100th victory at the new Carolina Stadium 9-6, sealing the rivalry weekend as a success. 
After the series was decided, you had the feeling that if Clemson didn’t win on Sunday, old Jack-Leg might would have really ended up in the clocktower with a rifle.  USC did not play well at all in the finale, bumbling and stumbling around with errors and uncharacteristic other mistakes.  Still, it took Carolina giving up three runs in the final two innings to finally allow the home crowd in orange and white to escape with a 1-run win.  I wasn’t there but apparently Clemson dogpiled on the field following the game after losing the weekend series to their rival. 
Expect that kind of reaction from any team that gets to us this year.  After all, we’re the champs until someone takes that title from us.  And we’ll be much better in May and June than we are today.  TRUST IN TANNER! 

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