First Inning Fireworks Propel USC to 9-2 Win

The South Carolina baseball team scored seven runs in the first inning and never looked back as they cruised to a 9-2 win over the struggling Davidson Wildcats Wednesday night at Sarge Frye Field.

The most exciting moment of the night may have come before the first out was even recorded, as newly hired South Carolina men's basketball coach Darrin Horn threw out the ceremonial first pitch with his son by his side.

The good vibes continued for the Gamecocks (20-7, 6-3) to start the game, as Sean Wideberg quickly got through the top of the first, despite the second batter of the contest reaching on a throwing error by third baseman James Darnell.

That's when the game basically ended for the Wildcats. Starting pitcher Andy Bass (0-3) worked two-thirds of an inning and gave up a staggering seven runs on six hits before being yanked from the contest.

Bass threw an astonishing 45 pitches for Davidson (8-15) during the Gamecocks barrage.

James Darnell started the massacre by belting a three-run shot over the left centerfield wall after Reese Havens doubled and Whit Merrifield walked to start the game.

First baseman Justin Smoak then walked before advancing to second on a bloop single by Phil Disher that fell just over the first baseman's head.

Andrew Crisp then grounded into a fielder's choice, scoring Justin Smoak on a throwing error by Davidson shortstop Matt Webb, to push the Gamecocks' lead to 4-0.

After back-to-back singles by designated hitters Parker Bangs and Harley Lail, Havens hit his second double of the inning and Carolina was quickly staked to the early 7-0 lead. Bangs was impressive in his first start as a designated hitter, going 2-4 with a run scored and one RBI.

"My thought process was, 'If we're going to use Parker off the bench, we've got to get him some at-bats, and we haven't really given him any,'" head coach Ray Tanner said. "And so I just took the opportunity today to give (Kyle) Enders a complete day off. He didn't want to take the day off; he wanted to DH. But I felt like we needed to get Parker some at-bats."

Meanwhile, starting pitcher Sean Wideberg (2-0) was mowing down the Davidson lineup, as the Sebastian, Florida, native struck out five batters through the first three innings.

However, Wideberg found himself in hot water in the top half of the third inning, as Davidson was able to load the bases on two singles and a walk.

Wideberg then issued a five pitch walk to Charles Fitzpatrick - pushing across the first run of the game for Davidson.

The senior quickly responded by picking up his third strikeout of the inning, as Wideberg froze up Danny Weiss on a 2-2 pitch and the DH was called out looking.

The game moved along quietly over the next few innings as Wideberg continued to pitch well, but USC's bats couldn't muster up any runs.

South Carolina had a golden chance to add on to their six run advantage in the bottom of the fourth, as Darnell walked and Disher picked up his third single of the game to put runners on the corners with one out. But Andrew Crisp hit a sharp line drive at the first baseman which doubled off Disher and Davidson was able to get out of the inning unscathed.

Davidson would threaten once again in the top of the sixth inning as Wideberg gave up two walks, and both runners advanced to second and third on stolen bases before the plug was finally pulled on the right hander.

Wideberg went 5 2/3 innings and gave up two hits, one earned run, four walks, and struck out nine.

The nine strikeouts were a career best for Wideberg and were the most by a Gamecock pitcher in a game this season.

New pitcher Alex Farotto then walked Piacenza and hit Matt Ray, to drive in the Wildcats' second run of the evening, cutting the Carolina lead to five.

However, Farotto would rebound by striking out Brett Shore to end the inning with USC up 7-2.

"Wideberg had a great start, but I was especially happy to see Alex Farotto have a couple quality innings," Tanner said.

The southpaw built off of the encouraging finish to the sixth in the next inning, as he struck out two batters and made an amazing leaping catch to record the second out of the inning.

The Gamecocks finally broke through to regain one of their early insurance runs as Smoak blasted a no-doubter over the right field wall to put Carolina up 8-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The homerun was the 45th of Smoak's career, and moved him into a tie for third place all time on the homerun record list with Jeff Parnell. It also gave Smoak sole possession of first place for homeruns by a switch hitter.

Smoak realizes how difficult it has been facing pitchers that don't give him much to hit.

"I've seen a lot of offspeed pitches away and fastballs away," Smoak said. "Nothing really in. And it's something I've had to get used to."

The very next batter, Phil Disher smacked a homerun of his own. It was the second time this season that the Gamecocks had hit back-to-back homeruns.

Ironically, it was Smoak and Disher the last time as well.

Disher went 4-5 at the plate with three singles and a homerun.

"Finally. It's been awhile since I got four hits," a relieved Phil Disher said. "It's always nice to come back and get a couple of hits."

Unfortunately, the next batter was not able to make some history of his own, as Andrew Crisp grounded out to finish the night 0-4 at the plate, ending his hitting streak at 19 games.

Tyler Musselwhite and Will Casey closed it out for USC in the ninth, giving USC the 9-2 victory.

The Gamecocks have now won four consecutive games, tying their longest winning streak of the season.

They now head to Athens, Georgia, to play the Bulldogs in a critical SEC series.

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