Gamecocks capture 6-4 win over Bucs
Against Georgia State last night, No. 18 South Carolina got training in what it's like to earn an early lead and have to hold on to it. A night later, the Gamecocks got their first taste of the season on how to come back from a deficit.
Charleston Southern's Tyler Thornburg hit a solo home run in the second inning to put USC behind 1-0 for the first time this season. But from there the Gamecocks would score six runs before being answered en route to picking up a 6-4 win over the Bucs.
"We're going to be down a lot. It's baseball. But it was good to see our guys respond," USC assistant head coach Chad Holbrook said. "I hadn't been in the dugout with them to know how they'd handle adversity being behind in a game. They didn't bat an eye and that's encouraging."
After a scoreless first inning for both teams, the Bucs (4-5) got on the board first with Thornburg's home run to the left field bullpen off starter Jay Brown, putting USC behind for the first time this year.
However, it didn't take long for Carolina (6-0) to respond as first basemen Nick Ebert led off the second inning with a solo shot of his own, knotting things up at 1-1. Ebert, who lost all his belongings in a fire late last month, was ready to make the most of his opportunity after dealing with the past few weeks.
"I was just waiting for my opportunity all year to get in there and swing a little bit, and fortunately I got a hold of my first hit to be a homer. I was happy for that," Ebert said.
"You would never know what happened to him. You would never know from everyday practicing to the day it happened," Holbrook said. "He never wavered and it's a testament to his character, his will. He's a mature guy."
The Gamecocks took the lead for good in the bottom half of the next frame as Adam Matthews led the inning off with a single and was moved over to second on a sac bunt by Whit Merrifield. Left fielder DeAngelo Mack broke the tie on an RBI single to put USC up for good with a 2-1 lead.
Carolina continued to scrape up runs against the Bucs' pitching staff as Andrew Crisp scored on a Scott Wingo single in the fourth. The fourth run came on a sac fly by pinch hitter Jeffery Jones to put USC up 4-1.
However, the eventual insurance came in the seventh inning as Mack led things off with a walk and went on to steal second during Justin Dalles' at-bat. Dalles would go on to hit a ball to the shortstop, who attempted to tag Mack as he advanced to third but whiffed on the play to allow Dalles to reach first on the infield single. Ebert would go on to deliver again, this time on a long double to the wall in left center for the 5-1 lead. USC added another run on a wild pitch by Patrick Dolan to go up 6-1.
That would be all the run support the USC pitching staff would need as Brown (1-0) got the win due to the predetermined split. After sitting out much of last year, Brown got his first start since March 6, 2007 and didn't disappoint. Aside from the home run, the right hander pitched nearly flawless baseball going 4 1/3 innings with three hits and one walk while striking out three.
"It was something else. Under the lights, I don't want to be mushy or anything, but I just wanted to take it all in there before the first pitch and the national anthem," Brown said. "I came here and threw 19 or 20 innings my first year and left that season with unfinished business. I wanted to do whatever I could to get healthy and help this team out."
While the win belonged to Brown, the best pitching of the night might have come from Curtis Johnson. After a shaky two innings of work against Duquesne, Johnson rallied to pitch 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball and strikeout five guys along the way.
Though the Gamecocks looked to have easily picked up the win, Michael Roth allowed one run in the eighth and Jordan Propst loaded the bases in the ninth before being replaced by Parker Bangs. Bangs would walk in a run and be pulled after one batter for Alex Farotto. With the bases juiced, Farotto gave up one run on a misplayed ball in front of the mound. That would be the team's final miscue, as Farotto struck out the next two hitters to end the game.
"Well, actually we're very fortunate to win. We consider ourselves kind of lucky in some spots," Holbrook said.
- Scott Wingo's RBI single in the fourth was his first hit of the season.
- Over the six games this season, the USC pitching staff is averaging 10.83 strikeouts per game including eight against CSU.
- DeAngelo Mack's triple in the eighth was the first in Carolina Stadium history. Mack was also the first player to hit a home run in the stadium.
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