May 18, 2013 10:43:24 AM
STARKVILLE - Win, anyway.
It's a motto and mantra that the University of South Carolina baseball team has had through back to back College World Series championships. Grayson Greiner was around for all those runs to Omaha and proved that winning attitude still exists under coach Chad Holbrook.
"A lot of these guys on this team weren't around to experience what it takes to win championships and win big games," Greiner said. "I was here and saw what it takes and tonight I did something in a leadership capacity by example to bring home a really tough road win against a really tough opponent."
Greiner took a first pitch from slider out of the hand of junior right hander Daryl Norris and easily deposited it deep over Left Field Lounge for a game-winning two run home run in a 5-3 victory in 10 innings.
"I saw in the on-deck circle that he had a really good slider but he kept throwing it over and over in the warm-up pitches," Greiner said. "I just decided right then that I would sit dead on a slider and first pitch got one I could do something with. It's one of those that when it leaves the bat, you know it's gone."
The Gamecocks senior catcher finished 3 of 4 with two RBIs and two runs scored in a game where less than 30 minutes before his home run he felt personally responsible for the game still going on. When Mississippi State University center fielder C.T. Bradford struck out swinging with the bases loaded and two outs, Greiner allowed a pitch in the dirt to roll all the way to the backstop and the Bulldogs made it 2-1.
"(Greiner) has a great baseball mind and I know he was more than disappointed when the ball got away from him because he was cleary frustrated in our dugout thinking he'd let the team down," Holbrook said. "This game tends to let you do something about a mistake in other ways and he did that with the bat."
The Bulldogs used eight different pitchers including Bradford (0-1) twice and sophomore left hander Ross Mitchell for only one pitch. Norris was making his second appearance in over 700 days after having a flawless inning of relief Tuesday against Oral Roberts.
MSU tried to once again execute a come-from-behind victory for the fifth time in just over two weeks and took a 3-2 lead on a two-RBI single in the seventh inning just over the head of South Carolina shortstop Joey Pankake. Pirtle got on base for the 28th consecutive game and the junior second baseman went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
"Obviously Pirtle was huge for us and I thought that hit right there was a huge momentum changer in the ball game," MSU coach John Cohen said. "We gave them gift runs tonight and that turned out to be the key to the game."
With the victory, the 14th-ranked Gamecocks (39-15, 17-11) clinched a top four finish in the conference standings and a first-round bye in the newly-expanded 12-team Southeastern Conference tournament. No. 24 MSU (39-16, 15-14) can nail down the fifth seed with a victory Saturday.
After rallying off USC closer Tyler Webb Thursday, there was no encore. Webb set the side down in order for his 16th save, which leads the SEC, in the home half of the 10th inning saying he needed the baseball as soon as possible.
"That's the great thing about being a reliever because if you screw up or have a bad start, you have to wait a week to redeem yourself," Webb said. "As a reliever, you can get back on the positive thinking the next day and that fits my mentality perfectly."
MSU senior right hander Kendall Graveman earned his first quality start this month following being lifted with one out in the seventh inning after allowing five hits and two runs (both earned), with four strikeouts and only one walk in 81 pitches. Graveman said he worked in the bullpen this week to get his fingers on top of the baseball to get the power sink back and proved he'd found something that works Friday night by getting 11 ground ball outs.
"I have to stick with that adjustment going forward and I need to get north to south movement instead of east to west on my stuff," Graveman said.
South Carolina left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery allowed nine hits and three runs (all earned) in seven innings of work.
The teams will conclude the regular season with a 2 p.m. rubber game Saturday. MSU is scheduled to start sophomore Jacob Lindgren (4-2, 3.91 ERA), while USC is schedule to start freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop (7-2, 2.75). Seven senior Bulldogs will be honored in pregame ceremonies.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
4. Sunday at the Bluff today looks at bioarchaeology ENTERTAINMENT
5. SAAC plans for 'Eye on the Arts' gala ENTERTAINMENT