USC evens score in 10-1 whupping of Auburn

Arik Hempy made his long awaited first in-conference start under more pressure than expected Saturday. Crushed last night by these same Auburn Tigers, USC needed a big win to avoid an awful weekend. Some things never change though, as Hempy stood up to the pressure and delivered. In a 10 – 1 victory, Hempy threw 6.2 innings and only gave up two singles.

Submerged in confusion Saturday, downtown Columbia offered a variety of USC sports as thousands scurryied through traffic, tailgaters and humidity. There was also a small band – Hootie something – playing live at Williams Brice before the Garnet & Black game. The congestion though was not as bad as the hangover handed to Yardcock fans after last night's mauling by Auburn.

Arik Hempy's return to the SEC schedule couldn't come under much more pressure. Losing the series to a much lower ranked SEC squad at home would be extremely detrimental. Would the high powered offense be up to the task?

It appeared so early and often. The Gamecocks escaped a minor threat in the top of the first when Trent Kline caught SEC speedster Bruce Edwards trying to steal third base. In the bottom of the first, the Gamecocks crushed two three-run bombs to take a 6 – 0 lead. James Darnell blasted his tenth of the year to dead center while Travis "In the Zone" Jones hit his ninth of the year – a line drive to left center. Within a monstrous streak, Jones was still yet to hit a home run at home.

Jones laughed before talking, saying, "My Momma actually told me I hadn't gotten one at home yet and she'd been waiting on it. I'm glad it came for her."

Coach Tanner remains elated over Jones' performance lately, referring back to his own playing days when he said, "It used to take me like three months to get as many hits as he's gotten the last few games."

As for Hempy, he simply got stronger as the game went on. Throwing 24 pitches in the first inning and on a 90 – 100 pitch limit, it looked like it could be a quick day for him. Though registering outs, he fell behind in the count several times. The trend changed quickly once he got the run support as he threw only 36 total pitches in the next three innings.

Coach Tanner was ecstatic with the outing, though a bit nervous through the first inning. "He wasn't very efficient in the first inning with 24 pitches, but after that he was really good. That was a sight for sore eyes right there."

Slick defense in the top of the third inning by Reese Havens allowed Hempy to register his first three up/three down inning. With an escalating pitch count through two, Havens dive up the middle to stop a sure single by Luke Grienke may have been, literally, just what the doctor ordered.

Cheyne Hurst, hitting ninth, also had a long awaited afternoon. With four hits on the afternoon, his first multi-hit game since March 23, he also swiped two bases. A Harley Lail double into the left field corner brought Hurst home in the fourth to extend the lead.

Another run in the fifth had the Gamecocks out in front 8 – 0 after five. With Hempy garnering fourteen outs in between hits, the lead was no surprise. After giving up a single to the leadoff hitter, Hempy didn't give up another hit until the sixth inning.

When he was finally lifted in the top of the seventh with two outs and a 8-0 lead, the announced crowd of 5,513 gave him a long standing ovation. Though Hempy walked four batters, the last of them just before leaving, two of them were in the first inning. He'd been in cruise control after the first, striking out five, and throwing only 89 pitches.

After the game, Hempy said, "I was all jacked up getting ready to throw. I got in the zone (after the six run first) and felt good after that."

Most importantly, Hempy said he felt fine after the 90 pitch outing. "I could have gone a little longer, but the pitch count was getting up there."

LHP Will Atwood will be getting the 1:30 start Sunday in the rubber game at The Sarge.

Notes of Interest

Justin Smoak extended his hitting streak to sixteen games with his ninth double of the year in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Alex Farotto stabbed a bullet out of the air to literally save face and threw the runner out at first.

Harley Lail put a scare into the crowd when he looked to be hit in the face. As it turns out, the ball bounced off of his arm first.

Cheyne Hurst also scared the Gamecock faithful when he got hit in the chest trying to beat out an infield single (his fourth of four hits). He immediately dropped face first to the ground, but was able to pop back up and stay in the game a minute later.

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