on June 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)
USC’s Godwin enjoys big-game setting
RALEIGH, N.C. — Pitching was the easy part for South Carolina starter Nick Godwin.
The before and after were the tough times.
Godwin had a solid showing in Saturday’s 5-4 loss to North Carolina State in the NCAA Regional but now the Gamecocks find themselves in the loser’s bracket.
The former Spartanburg Methodist College star may have seen his college career come to its conclusion, and there’s nothing more he can do about it.
At least not without three more USC wins today and Monday. And those will have to come with Godwin (7-3) doing nothing more than encouraging his teammates.
“That’s the hardest part about being a starting pitcher,” Godwin said. “We’ve got three games to go if we want to get out of this (regional), and I can do nothing but sit on the bench and cheer on my teammates. I can’t get out there and play and do something for us.
“It’s never fun to just sit on the bench, but I’ve got teammates I know I can count on.”
Sitting the bench was exactly where Godwin was during last year’s NCAA tournament as he only pitched 4 2/3 innings and didn’t see any action after April 25. He began this season as a mid-week starter in non-conference games but a pair of dominating performances in mid-April against rival Clemson propelled him into a top slot.
“That was definitely the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in, and it was fun, I really enjoyed it,” Godwin said. “It was nice to be out there instead of on the bench like last year. Once you get out there on the mound, the pressure wasn’t that big a deal. The harder part was waiting for a 7 o’clock game because I was anxious all day and thinking about it constantly.”
Godwin entered the regional having defeated Tennessee two weeks ago and then Florida in the SEC tournament nine days ago to earn a crucial role against N.C. State.
He allowed a homer to second baseman Dallas Poulk on just his third pitch of the game but settled down to retire the next six in a row. An error by shortstop Reese Havens led to an unearned run in the third, and two hits and a walk gave N.C. State a 3-1 lead heading to the sixth.
“They did a good job of putting balls in play,” Godwin said. “My game is to get ahead (in the count), and when I do that, I can throw balls off the plate and get batters to swing and miss. But they put balls in play and found the holes, and you’ve got to give them credit.”
USC coach Ray Tanner called the game one of those “that seemed like every pitch made a difference,” and Godwin knew he’d have to battle tough against Wolfpack starter Clayton Shunick.
Shunick came in with a 2.12 ERA and 100 strikeouts to only 21 walks in 89 1/3 innings while holding batters to an ACC-leading .207 average.
“I’d heard about their pitchers and their All-American so I knew I had to keep us in the game,” Godwin said.
“I thought Nick battled hard for us,” Tanner said. “He gave up an 0-2 home run (in the first inning) that I’m sure he’d like to have back but he kept us in the game. He’s been doing that for us all season, keeping us in position to win a ballgame and he did it again.”
It wasn’t the homer that Godwin felt was his biggest mistake but his 0-2 pitch that hit Marcus Jones leading off the sixth with USC up 4-3. He allowed a single and a sacrifice before leaving, having allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits with five strikeouts and a walk in 5 1/3.
Reliever Brandon Todd would give up the game-tying run later that inning.
“The biggest thing was we get a lead and I come out and plunk (Jones) right between the numbers on 0-2,” Godwin said. “That was probably the biggest pitch of the night.
“I felt like I threw pretty good and had good stuff. I just didn’t get ahead of the batters, and they got guys on in each inning it seemed like. I don’t know how many they hit real hard, but they hit a bunch of balls that found holes and made plays at the right time.”
COOPER TO START FOR USC
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said Saturday that sophomore right-hander Blake Cooper will start today’s 1 p.m. game against James Madison.
Cooper (5-6, 4.22 ERA) was second among USC starters in ERA and innings pitched. He’s averaged just more than five innings in his last five starts and took the loss against Vanderbilt (4 1/3, four runs, six hits, eight strikeouts and one walk) in his last outing that eliminated USC from the SEC tournament.