Westmoreland, Walker fuel sweep

Starting pitcher Adam Westmoreland returned to action for the first time in over a year and pitched 5.2 innings of scoreless ball as Christian Walker provided three RBIs and the Gamecocks completed a weekend sweep with a 6-0 victory over Santa Clara in front of 7,316 fans at Carolina Stadium Sunday afternoon.

"It's been about 18 months and it feels awesome to go back out there and do it again," said Westmoreland, who received a standing ovation when he exited the game. "I felt like the crowd gave me a really warm welcome."

While Westmoreland didn't receive the win, he was the story of the day as he was in complete control throughout his 5.2 innings of work in his first time back on the mound since late in the 2009 season. The left-hander from nearby Brookland-Cayce High School, struck out five batters while surrendering just three hits and a walk. The outing should secure his spot as the Gamecocks' Sunday pitcher for at least another week. The job was up for grabs prior to the season.

"He was good. The thing that was so important to me was he was comfortable and wasn't trying to do too much," head coach Ray Tanner said. "He was around the strike zone. He seemed like he enjoyed being out there. He hadn't been out there in a while. I think he has a chance to get better as we go."

After offensive fireworks in the season opener, Sunday's game played out much more like Saturday's 2-1 affair on the offensive end for Carolina.

The Gamecocks broke out with four runs in the sixth inning then tacked on a run in both the seventh and eighth innings.

Christian Walker continued what has been a red-hot start to the season going 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Evan Marzilli, who came on as a defensive replacement for Robert Beary in the sixth accounted for the other 2 RBIs with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and a single to centerfield in the seventh. Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Adams Matthews added two hits apiece.

"They're very disciplined hitters," Tanner said of Walker and Bradley. "Their approach and emotions are in check the majority of the time. They understand the strike zone for the most part and look for pitches to hit. They're not afraid to take a pitch. Sometimes I want them to hit before they hit, but they're good players. If we can get guys on the base, we have a chance to drive those people in."

But for the first five innings this one was all about pitching on both sides.

Westmoreland cruised until the top of the sixth inning when after two strikeouts he walked Curtis Wagner. With Westmoreland at 79 pitches, the staff went with right-hander Jose Mata out of the pen. Mata walked the first batter he faced and then gave up a single to right. But Adams Matthews fielded it cleanly and fired a two-hopper to catcher Brady Thomas who tagged Wagner for the final out of the inning.

"Coach (Chad) Holbrook is letting us throw [home] more and more this year," Matthews said. "Usually right there we'll throw to second. Jackie likes to throw, so he kind of kept motioning to him to let us throw. So, kid hit the ball to me. I made a good throw and Brady made a good tag, and it worked out for us."

Santa Clara starter Chris Mendoza also held the Gamecocks' batters to just three hits in the first five innings of the game. But Matthews' defensive play seemed to give the Gamecocks momentum, and he led off the inning with a bunt for base hit. A perfectly executed hit-and-run put runners at the corners as Jackie Bradley, Jr. shot one through the right side for a hit.

That set the table for Walker who crushed a pitch just short of the top of the left field wall bringing in the first two runs of the game. That ended the day for Mendoza.

After a Brady Thomas walk and Adrian Morales sacrifice bunt, Santa Clara elected to walk designated hitter Michael Roth with first base open. Marzilli hit a fly out just deep enough to center for Thomas to beat the throw.

The Gamecocks added another run in the seventh when Walker knocked in Matthews with a single to left. The final run of the game came in the eighth when Marzilli's single scored Morales.

Mata, transfer Logan Munson and freshman Forrest Koumas didn't give up a hit over the final three innings as Munson and Koumas made their Carolina debuts. Koumas struck out three while working the final two innings of the game.

The win gave the Gamecocks a 3-0 start to the season and a sweep of Santa Clara.

"I'm very happy about our weekend and winning all three games against Santa Clara. (They are) well-coached and tremendously disciplined," Tanner said. "They averaged seven runs a game last year. I was tremendously concerned going into the weekend and we were able to win three games. All three games we played were in the balance at some point. It wasn't an easy weekend for us. We had quality pitching and timely hitting. I was grateful and happy about our crowd. We had over 22,000 to 23,000 in that facility and that means a lot to us. We are grateful for that."

South Carolina will be back in action at Carolina Stadium again next Friday against Southern Illinois with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m.

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