COLUMBIA, S.C. – Second-ranked South Carolina broke a 1-1 tie on a successful squeeze bunt by Marcus Mooney in the seventh inning and Madison Stokes added a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth as the Gamecocks defeated USC Upstate 4-1 on Wednesday night at Founders Park. The Gamecocks are 35-9 with USC Upstate now 18-24 on the year.
Sophomore right-hander Taylor Widener earned the win with 3.2 scoreless innings of relief. He did not allow a hit and struck out four and at one point retired 11 batters in a row. He is now 2-2 on the year. Sophomore right-hander Tyler Johnson pitched a perfect ninth inning with a strikeout to earn his fifth save of the season. USC Upstate starter Cody Brittain suffered the loss and is now 2-1 on the year. He allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits in 6.1 innings with four walks and nine strikeouts.
Carolina got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning. Following back-to-back walks for LT Tolbert and Marcus Mooney, both runners advanced on a wild pitch and Tolbert then scored on a fielding error by first baseman Jake Beaver.
USC Upstate answered with a run in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game at 1-1. J.J. Shimko led off with a double and advanced to third after Daniel Fickas grounded out. James Fowlkes drove in Shimko with a single to left field.
The Gamecocks took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Chris Cullen began the inning with a walk and T.J. Hopkins entered the game to pinch run for Cullen. Hopkins advanced to second after Tolbert laid down a sacrifice bunt and went to third on a passed ball. Mooney knocked Hopkins in with a bunt for a base hit down the first base line.
Carolina added a pair of runs in the eighth inning. After loading the bases with one out, Stokes knocked a base hit into left field scoring Dom Thompson-Williams and Danny Blair to increase the advantage to three runs.
Madison Stokes’ single in the eighth inning gave the Gamecocks a little insurance and increased the lead to 4-1.
Taylor Widener, Reed Scott and Tyler Johnson combined to limit USC Upstate to just three hits to earn the victory.
- Gene Cone extended his hitting streak to 30 games and has successfully reached base in 33 straight games. It is the longest hitting streak in Division I baseball this year.
- Mooney finished 2-for-2 with a RBI and a walk on the evening for the Gamecocks.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
“This was a big win for us. Going into tonight, we had three non-conference games left. We need to play as well as we can and put ourselves in position to accomplish the goals that we want to accomplish. We certainly need to win our games at home. We played pretty well tonight, especially in how we played defense and how we pitched. It was really good to see Brandon Murray throw the ball pretty well. Taylor Widener was probably as sharp as he has been all year long. That bodes well for us, especially in the bullpen during conference play, to have another guy out there throwing as well as he threw. Reed [Scott] was good and obviously Tyler [Johnson] finished it out for us. We pitched and we played defense, but we struggled offensively tonight. We didn’t capitalize on a couple of chances, but we stayed in the game. We found a way to execute and get a run across in the seventh. Then Madison [Stokes] with a big hit in the eighth gave us some breathing room. This was a good win heading into a very difficult challenge this weekend in Kentucky.”
South Carolina will be back in action this weekend as they head to Lexington to face Kentucky for a three-game series.