Opening Salvo: USC blasts Pirates 22-5

The South Carolina baseball program entered the 2008 season with high hopes and high expectations. After yesterday's game was delayed due to the weather, the Gamecocks wasted no time today showing why this year's version of the Yardcocks is so highly thought of.

South Carolina scored 20 runs in the first five innings on their way to an easy 22-5 victory over the East Carolina Pirates.

RHP Mike Cisco (1-0) cruised through five innings of work giving up just 1 ER, 5 hits, and a walk while striking out 4 on the way to his first win of the season.

"I thought it was a quality start. They have great hitters in that lineup and he (Cisco) had to make some pitches. He threw a lot of great change-ups, he missed away with his fastball, got his slider over. They can swing it a little bit. They ended up with double-digit hits and he was able to keep them off balance early," USC head coach Ray Tanner said. "He gave us a chance to win."

Cisco got plenty of help from his teammates as the Gamecocks scored 22 runs on 19 hits. South Carolina hitters were also walked nine times and HBP five times.

There were plenty of stars at the plate for the Gamecocks, but none shined brighter than junior shortstop Reese Havens. Leading off for the Yardcocks, Havens smashed 5 hits and delivered 5 RBI on 6 at-bats including a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth. The 5 hits tied a career high for Havens previously set against Mississippi State last season.

"I would have been delighted if he (Havens) got five in the whole weekend, but he got five today and hopefully he'll get us two more the next two games."

DH Phil Disher, first baseman Justin Smoak, and catcher Kyle Enders all homered as well. Smoak's home run was the 40th of his Gamecock career making him just the 9th USC player to reach that milestone. The Gamecocks' star first baseman went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI.

Enders' 2nd inning home run was the first of his young career.

Disher also went 3-for-5 on the day with 5 RBI. His two home run day marked the first time in his career he accomplished that feat.

"Phil (Disher) would tell you he did not have a great preseason and wasn't very comfortable at the plate," Tanner said. "As I told him, ‘You're not going to get benched, so you might as well go up there and take some good hacks.' Good hitters, they're going to have some days, and he's had those before in his career, and certainly today was a great one."

After a solid 2007 campaign ECU starting pitcher TJ Hose (0-1) struggled lasting just 1.1 innings giving up 11 runs (9 earned) on 9 hits. Reliever Brad Mincey only faired slightly better giving up 5 runs (4 earned) and 3 hits in just 1.1 innings of work. Shane Small and Seth Simmons pitched the remaining 5.1 innings for the Pirates giving up 6 runs on 7 hits.

"I was a little bit surprised," Tanner said. "They made a couple of mistakes behind him that aided our cause a little bit. We swung the bats pretty good against him. He didn't get his change-up across (the plate) effectively and we've got some pretty good hitters in the middle of the order."

The Gamecocks started off the 2008 season with a bang scoring four runs in the bottom of the first.

After Cisco cruised through the top of the first unscathed, Havens led off the inning and the season with a line drive base hit to left field. Freshman left fielder Whit Merrifield moved Havens over on a sacrifice bunt. Third baseman James Darnell then doubled to give the Gamecocks their first run of the season. After Smoak was hit by a pitch, Disher's seemingly harmless single got past ECU left fielder Stephen Batts allowing Darnell and Smoak to score on the play. Right fielder Harley Lail's Sac fly to right scored Disher giving the Gamecocks a 4-0 lead at the end of the first inning.

It was more of the same in the second as Cisco cruised through a 1-2-3 inning. The Gamecocks then batted around in their half of the inning pushing past 8 runs on 7 hits, establishing a 12-0 lead. Havens added his second and third singles of the day. The two highlights of the inning came when Disher blasted a towering three-run homer and catcher Kyle Enders hit the first home run of his career down the left field line. Cisco got into a little trouble at the top of third giving up his first two singles of the game, but was able to escape without giving up a run. The Gamecocks scored four more runs in the bottom of the third, all with two outs.

USC was able to continue their scoring onslaught scoring two in the 4th and 5th innings each. Cisco's shutout was ended in the fifth when ECU catcher Corey Kemp scored on a double steal. At the end of five the Gamecocks found themselves up 20-1.

Freshman pitcher Keegan Linza came on in the 6th to relieve Cisco. Linza pitched 3 solid innings giving up 2 ER on just 4 hits. The outing marked Linza's first in the garnet and black.

Junior college transfer Tyler Musselwhite came on in the ninth, but struggled to throw strikes and was pulled after giving up 2 walks and 2 runs.

Freshman Will Casey came on in relief of Musselwhite and ended it for the Gamecocks giving up 2 hits and no runs.

While Tanner was happy with his club's effort he was not ready to give them too much praise after only one game.

"One game a season does not make. We had, certainly, a great start to our year, but it's a short turnaround. We're going to play here in a couple of hours again against a top 25 team, 0-0. We had a great opener, no question about it, but you've got to forget about it quickly it's a new game right now at 7."

The Gamecocks play again tonight at Sarge Frye Field at 7 PM.

Notes: Game 1 Attendance: 5823

In his first career at-bat, pinch hitting for second baseman Whit Merrifield, Justin Hopper doubled to left driving in 2 RBI. Relievers Keegan Linza, Tyler Musselwhite, and Will Casey made their USC baseball debuts on the mound.

Reese Havens' 5 hits tied his career high. Havens also got 5 hits against Mississippi State last season.

Justin Smoak's home run gave him 40 for his career. Smoak is now just 8 home runs shy of tying Hank Smalls' record of 48 from 1972-75. USC hitters were HBP 5 times. That tied a record set against UNC Charlotte on February 13, 1996. The 22 runs USC scored matched the eighth highest offensive output by a Ray Tanner-coached team at USC.

USC catcher Kyle Enders didn't start the season off the way he probably wanted. Enders was called for catcher's interference and charged an error when his glove hit the bat of ECU lead off man Harrison Eldridge on the first at-bat of the game. The error turned out to be harmless and Enders rebounded to go 2-for-4 and hit his first career home run.

ECU left fielder Stephen Batts' 29-game hit streak was ended today after he went 0-for-4 with a walk.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories