Gamecocks open two-time title defense by beating VMI

LB Dantzler’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning helped lift second ranked South Carolina to a 2-1 victory over VMI on Opening Day at Carolina Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242 fans.

Three Gamecock hurlers combined to limit the Keydets to just one run on five hits while striking out 11 batters in the victory, which followed the ceremonial raising of South Carolina’s back-to-back national championship banner.

A pitchers’ duel erupted on Opening Day as South Carolina senior left-hander Michael Roth and VMI junior right-hander Coby Cowgill limited both offenses throughout the game.

With the score deadlocked at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth and both starters out of the game, the Gamecocks made their move as Evan Marzilli led off with a bunt for a base hit and was sacrificed over into scoring position by Adam Matthews. With two outs and a 0-2 count, Dantzler drilled VMI reliever Alan Watts’ pitch into center field scoring Marzilli and giving the Gamecocks a one-run lead.

In the top of the ninth inning, with one out and a runner on first base, Gamecock sophomore right-hander Forrest Koumas entered the game and behind a solid throw by freshman catcher Grayson Greiner, Carolina nabbed pinch runner Brandon Angus at second base for a caught steal leaving the bases clear. Koumas then retired VMI designated hitter Cameron Walter with a strikeout looking to end the game and preserve the South Carolina victory.

South Carolina junior left-hander Tyler Webb earned the win out of the bullpen with 2.1 quality relief innings allowing just one hit while striking out four batters. Koumas earned his first save with 0.2 scoreless innings. Roth was solid in his first start of the year allowing one run on four hits with six strikeouts and no walks in the no-decision. Cowgill went seven innings with one run, unearned, on seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk.

South Carolina had nine hits to just five for VMI. Marzilli went 3-for-4 with a run scored to lead the Gamecocks at the plate. Greiner and freshman left fielder Tanner English also had two hits apiece.

VMI got on the scoreboard first with a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Cameron Walter reached base on a one-out single and scored on Drew Bryan’s two-out base hit. Bryan’s line drive just got out of the reach English in left field, who tried to make a diving catch in the gap in left-center.

South Carolina would tie the game up at 1-1 in the bottom of the third inning with an unearned run. With runners on first and second and two outs, Cowgill issued up a wild pitch to advance the runners and Chase Vergason would score on the next pitch as VMI catcher Matt Winn was charged with a passed ball.

It was a festive day at Carolina Stadium as the Gamecocks celebrated back-to-back national championships in a pregame ceremony. The South Carolina National Guard Band opened with the national anthem and fans were treated to a video tribute to the 2011 national championship squad.

Several former Gamecock players from the ’11 team were in attendance including Robert Beary, Jackie Bradley Jr., Bryan Harper, Peter Mooney, Adrian Morales, Steven Neff, John Taylor, Brady Thomas and Scott Wingo. Bradley, the 2010 College World Series Most Outstanding Player and Wingo, the 2011 College World Series Most Outstanding Player, each threw out ceremonial first pitches before the game.

Bradley threw a strike down the middle from near the pitcher’s mound to Thomas with Wingo and Beary simulating a throw from second base to home plate. It was Wingo’s throw and Beary’s pick at home plate that was a key play in the game one victory in the 2011 championship series with the Florida Gators.

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