Gamecocks start new era with season-opening win

The Chad Holbrook era at South Carolina started off in victorious fashion as senior first baseman LB Dantzler homered and drove in two runs and sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery hurled six scoreless innings to pick up his first win of the season as fifth ranked South Carolina defeated Liberty 4-3 on Opening Day in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242 fans at Carolina Stadium.

It was an emotional afternoon in Columbia as former head coach and current athletics director Ray Tanner was honored in several pregame ceremonies capped off by the retiring of his No. 1 jersey, the first retired jersey in South Carolina baseball history.

Montgomery did not allow a run and yielded just five hits and two walks while striking out five batters to pick up the victory. Senior left-hander Tyler Webb worked 1.2 hitless innings of relief with a pair of strikeouts to earn his first save of the season. Liberty starting pitcher Carson Herndon suffered the loss. He allowed one run on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

South Carolina broke ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning on a solo home run by Dantzler. The senior first baseman drilled the first pitch he saw to give the Gamecocks a one-run lead.

It remained that way until the sixth inning when Carolina increased the advantage to 2-0. Graham Saiko led off with a walk. The Gamecocks then caught a break as a throwing error by Liberty reliever Jared Lyons on a little roller off the bat of Max Schrock gave Carolina runners on the corners. A sac fly off the bat of Dantzler scored Saiko.

South Carolina extended the advantage to 4-0 in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and one out, TJ Costen scored on a wild pitch issued by Liberty reliever Josh Richardson. After a walk to Saiko loaded the bases again, Chase Vergason would score on a RBI fielder’s choice by Schrock.

Liberty would make things interesting in the top of the eighth inning. Trey Wimmer singled and walks to Nick Lacik and Nick Paxton gave Liberty bases loaded with one out. Ryan Cordell knocked a RBI double off the wall in left field to score a pair of runs. With Webb entering the game, Liberty would get one more on a RBI groundout by Bryan Aanderud. Webb would get out of the inning though with a strikeout of Danny Grauer. Webb then retired the Flames in order in the top of the ninth inning to preserve the Gamecock victory.

Dantzler went 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI. Cordell, Wimmer and Dalton Britt all had two hits apiece to lead Liberty.

The pregame ceremony honoring Ray Tanner feature a video message from school president Dr. Harris Pastides, the unveiling of Tanner Way, a street outside the stadium by the honorable Mayor Steve Benjamin, a South Carolina State Senate resolution featuring state senator John E. Courson, a license plate tag honor the back-to-back national championship from the My Carolina Alumni Association, a video tribute to Coach Tanner and the unveiling of the retired No. 1 jersey in left field.

South Carolina is 9-3 on Opening Day in one-run games dating back to 1970. Ironically the Gamecocks also won by one run, 9-8 vs. College of Charleston, in Ray Tanner’s first game as a head coach at South Carolina in 1997.

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