USC Sends Their Very Best in 20-3 Rout of MSU

One of the oldest axioms in baseball is that good pitching beats good hitting every time. It's still true. MSU came into the game with the top-ranked hitting club in the conference, and the Gamecocks came in with the best pitching staff in the conference. Harris Honeycutt's record remained perfect as a Gamecock as USC won 20-3. He had a little help with a season best 25 hits from his offense.

Of course, the other side of the equation also came into play as USC, the best home run hitting team was matched up against the bottom-ranked pitching staff in the SEC. South Carolina batters feasted on the pitches served up by the Bulldog pitchers, recording season highs in runs (20) and hits (25). The Yardcocks were led by shortstop Reese Havens, who had a career night, collecting 5 hits and 4-RBIs on the night. Reese, who has struggled at the plate through most of the season, may have put all that behind him tonight as he raised his batting average 48 points in one game.

Mississippi State coach Ron Polk was philosophical after the game, stating "I'd rather lose a game like that than a 5-4 game when somebody walks in the winning run or makes an error." What his players thought will not go on record, as the players requested for post-game interviews didn't show up. Polk acknowledged, "South Carolina is a good hitting team."

The #2 ranked Gamecocks matched up their score and their won-loss record, improving to 20-3 on the season, and 3-1 in the SEC. The Bulldogs evened their league record at 2-2 and are 13-5 overall. It was Mississippi State's most lopsided SEC loss since a 22-4 defeat at home to Tennessee in 1998. And, the 17-run deficit was the worst margin of conference defeat ever for a Ron Polk Bulldog team.

Starting Gamecock pitcher Harris Honeycutt had only given up three earned runs all season prior to Friday night, but the fact that MSU doubled that number in this game and raised his ERA a bit was no consolation to the Bulldogs as he had the most important stat of the night, he won. He spotted the Bulldogs a pair of first-inning runs, but pitched light-out after that, striking out eight Dogs and walking only one while raising his season record to 6-0. He threw 106 pitches on the night in 6.2 innings, 72 of them strikes.

Sophomore Alex Farotto relieved Honeycutt in the sixth and closed the game out from there, fanning seven batters himself while throwing only 36 pitches, a career-high in strikeouts for the left-hander.

MSU starting pitcher Aaron Weatherford lost his first game of the season, giving up eight of the runs on 10 hits in 5.1 innings. Freshman reliever Greg Houston took the hill in the middle of the sixth inning and was left there for the balance of the game, even as South Carolina kept pouring it on. He ended up giving up 15 hits and a dozen runs, while striking out six with no walks. "We hated to leave Greg out there all that time but we've got to save our bullpen for the next couple of days," Polk said.

James Darnell, Trent Kline, and Phil Disher all hit multiple run homers, and the three also produced eight of the 19 RBI credited to the Gamecocks.

Steve Spurrier would have been proud of the baseball team this night, for though Head Coach Ray Tanner sent his second and third string out to bat in the top of the ninth, they gave no quarter, as the USC mop-up crew scored five runs in the final inning to complete the rout. Eight Gamecocks had two or more hits and a dozen USC batters in all hit safely. The 25 hits on the evening marked the fifth highest total by Ray Tanner-coached team at South Carolina.

Player of the game: Sophomore shortstop Reese Havens

Game-two is at 3:00 Saturday. It will be broadcast regionally on the SportSouth television channel.

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