COLUMBIA, S.C.—Starting a freshman on the mound with your season on the line would usually be a risky proposition. Wil Crowe is no ordinary freshman.
The righthander threw a four-hit shutout for his first career complete game, keeping his South Carolina team alive in the Columbia Regional Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks cruised past Campbell 9-0, earning themselves a rematch with Maryland in Sunday night’s regional final.
“I knew that we needed a good outing,” Crowe said. “I knew that I needed to go deep in the game, especially since, if we win, we’ve got a game tonight. So I went into it thinking that if I kept my pitch count down that I could help the team out for later.”
The first hitter Crowe faced Sunday, Camels catcher Steven Leonard, worked the count full before flying out to center field. That would be the last three-ball count Crowe went to all day. Crowe didn’t allow his first hit until the fourth and finished the game facing just five hitters over the minimum, allowing just four singles along with one batter reaching on a third-strike wild pitch. The Camels never got a runner to third base.
Crowe has the makings of the next Gamecocks pitching star, and they’ve seen their share of those over the years. His shutout was the first by a Gamecock freshman in an NCAA tournament game since 1988, and he improved to 8-3 for the year, having gone at least seven innings in each of his last three starts.
“He was as efficient as I’ve seen since he’s been here with his command—fastball, breaking ball, changeups,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “He was in total control out there. It was a masterful performance by him. To go nine innings, we obviously needed that with the circumstances that we’re under.”
The freshman came out pumping 91-94 mph fastballs in the first inning and never relented. Crowe controlled the strike zone from the early stages, pitching to both sides with his heater while mixing the shape and velocity of his breaking pitches.
Crowe registered just four strikeouts, but that was just as well. Having to win two games in a day to stay alive, the Gamecocks needed the length. Getting 11 outs on the first or second pitch of an at-bat helped.
If not for a two-out single by Campbell’s Matt Parrish in the ninth, Crowe would’ve finished the game in under 100 pitches. As it was, he needed 101.
“Just throwing strikes, that’s all I was trying to do,” Crowe said. “They got the bat on some balls that were good pitches and happened to keep my pitch count down.”
Crowe certainly won a fan in Campbell coach Greg Goff, who joked after the game that he hated to be done in by a fellow Tennessee native.
“I was hoping that maybe the atmosphere, for a freshman, would maybe be a little overwhelming to him,” Goff said. “But from the first pitch on, he was in command.
“I thought he maintained his velocity real well today. He’d throw a ball by us and I kept looking up, and I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ It’s 89-92. That was to me the biggest point, especially late in the year. Thrown a lot of pitches. For him to maintain his velo and command throughout the game, my hat’s off to him.”