USC comes from behind to beat The Citadel

South Carolina used a four-run fifth inning and a Christian Walker solo home run in the seventh to erase a 4-0 deficit and defeat The Citadel 6-4 Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium. Walker finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Reliever John Taylor picked up the win as closer Matt Price earned the save.

For four innings it seemed like South Carolina was going to sleep-walk its way through Wednesday night. After all, it had been raining with the game in doubt for much of the day. And the Gamecocks were coming off a series win in Gainesville as they took two-of-three games from the country's top team at the time.

But South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner says he isn't buying that excuse for the poor start.

"The fact that we scuffled early was because of [starting pitcher] Bryce Hines," he said. I don't know if you recognized it or not but he has a big league breaking pitch. He is very special; you are going to hear his name a lot down the road. He has something that is very special and he was a little bit wildly affective. He was hard to square up and we expected that. Our scouting report was right on the money that we would have a hard time scoring and getting hits and that what it was."

And for four innings, Hines looked nearly unhittable as he kept the Carolina hitters off-balance and allowed his team to race to a 4-0 lead.

On the other side, South Carolina starter Adam Westmoreland struggled. Westmoreland, who had a positive start to the season but has been in what Tanner called a slump recently, again failed to go deep into the game.

Westmoreland gave up four earned runs including one each in the first two innings and then two more that were charged to him after he exited with no outs in the fourth and two runners on.

After reliever Jose Mata got Carolina out of the fourth and then cruised through the fifth for a one, two, three inning, the momentum seemed to turn.

Robert Beary led off the bottom of the fifth with a single before Scott Wingo and Peter Mooney took walks to load the bases with nobody out.

After an Evan Marzilli fielder's choice, Jackie Bradley, Jr. took a walk to cut it to 4-1.

That set the table for Christian Walker who flied a ball into the right field corner that eventually sliced away from the right fielder.

The ball touched down just fair as chaos seemed to ensue on the base paths and three runners -- one of which initially held at third to tag in-case the ball was caught -- raced home on each others cleats. The final runner, Bradley, Jr., slid in, popped up and glared towards The Citadel dugout and fans.

When the dust cleared, Walker was standing on second with a double, the game was tied and Hines' night was done.

"Walker's ball in the corner was huge for us," Tanner said. "That was a ball that barely got inside the line and (Matt) Simonelli almost made a great play on that ball and it got us right back in the thick of it. We needed something good, we were in the middle of the game there and you need an opportunity to get the tying run to the plate or on the on-deck circle. And it all worked out for us."

From there the Gamecocks' bullpen continued its stellar play as it didn't give up a single hit over the final five innings. Mata worked a perfect sixth and John Taylor gave up just a walk in the seventh.

"It was the key to the game," Tanner said of the bullpen. "The fact that we were able to hold them, kept them a bay. With Jose Mata and John Taylor and Matt Price, we had a chance to come back and make it a game or win the game."

And with that chance, Walker did the rest.

With two outs and two strikes, he timed a change-up just right and blasted it into the visitor's bullpen in left center to put the Gamecocks up 5-4.

"It felt good to square a ball up like that," Walker said. "I've been getting hits here and there, but haven't squared a ball up like that in a while."

Taylor worked a perfect eighth and after an insurance run in the bottom of that inning, Price struck out two in a perfect ninth to earn the save. Taylor earned the win and struck out two in three innings of work.

With the win, South Carolina improves to 15-4 on the season.

The Gamecocks turn their attention to a three-game weekend SEC series with Kentucky at Carolina Stadium.

Carolina could be without several players. Right fielder Adam Matthews, who didn't play Wednesday after he tweaked a hamstring Sunday, will likely not be available, according to Tanner. Starting pitcher Steven Neff, who missed Saturday's scheduled start in Gainesville due to tenderness in his arm, is also not likely to be available, according to Tanner.

Tanner is still waiting to see how freshman pitcher Forrest Koumas will respond after being hospitalized for much of the week after eating a peanut. Koumas was very good in his first career start in place of Neff Saturday. Tanner says he's being told Koumas, who should be released Thursday, will be fine this weekend but the staff will have to continue to monitor his situation.

First pitch of game one is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories