For the second game in a row, the South Carolina baseball team fell behind early in the game. And for the second game in a row the team responded to take the lead.
Only this time there was no doubt the Gamecocks were going to come out victorious.
USC pounded out 15 runs on 19 hits as they took the first of a three game series with Long Beach State 15-8 on Friday night.
"The way we swing it man, I wasn't surprised at all. I think every guy on this team would say that cause we can hit the ball and we're going to hit the ball," USC first baseman Nick Ebert said.
After the Carolina defense allowed Long Beach State (2-6) to take a 1-0 lead via a single and two errors in the first inning, the offense responded with some run scoring of its own. Andrew Crisp gave USC (7-0) the lead with an RBI single after two hits and error loaded the bases allowing the team to go up 2-1.
From there the team went on to put on a hitting clinic highlighted by the back-to-back home runs hit in the second inning by DeAngelo Mack and Nick Ebert. Mack's two-run shot to right field brought the crowd to its feet but it was Ebert's solo home run that left them in awe.
On the very next pitch from LBSU starter Jake Thompson, Ebert hit a ball about 10 feet to the right of dead center field that cleared the wall easily and gave USC a 5-1 lead. In back-to-back starts, Ebert has hit two home runs and finished the night a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. He is currently batting .625 with four RBIs.
"I knew it was gone. After D-Mack hit his, that kind of pumped me up a little bit," Ebert said with a laugh. "I was sitting on a fastball and he gave it to me."
After both teams went scoreless over the next two innings, Carolina's bats came back life as Jeffery Jones notched his first RBI on the night on a single that started another USC scoring run. Bobby Haney's single loaded the bases as Scott Wingo finished the scoring with a sacrifice fly to put the Gamecocks firmly in the driver's seat at 7-1.
The next inning saw the Gamecocks post another three runs as Jackie Bradley Jr. hit his first career triple to lead things off in the sixth. Mack reached second on an infield hit in the next at bat setting the stage one again for Ebert. The junior got his second RBI of the night with sac fly that also move Mack into scoring position. Justin Dalles would bring him home with a double as Carolina forged ahead to finish the inning up 10-1.
The Dirtbags finally answered the scoring with a solo home run by Derek Legg in the top of the eighth but the Gamecocks fired right back with a double by Ebert to start the bottom half of the frame.
Haney, Wingo, Merrifield and Bradley would later reel off four straight RBI hits, including another triple by Merrifield as USC cruised to the 15-2 advantage.
The amount of offense from the Gamecocks hasn't been a big surprise to Mack who watched four teammates who combined for over 80 home runs last year leave the program.
"I guess people have been looking at our hitting saying it's down a little bit right now but I guess we scored the ball a lot today. It's good to have a breakout game for our hitters," Mack said. "It's been cold the past couple days, been pretty brutal. But it's heating up now so hopefully the bats will heat up with it."
After losing four players who combined for over 80 home runs last fall, USC coach Ray Tanner isn't surprised that his team has been able to hit a home run in very game so far this season but doesn't expect the Gamecocks to be another 100 home run team.
"It's seven games but I didn't think it was a complete loss of power. But the guys we had last year hit 80 home runs, you just don't expect guys to jump back in there and do that," Tanner said. "I don't think we'll be on that pace by any stretch of the imagination but there's some guys in there with a little bit of juice."
Carolina did get a solid outing from starter Sam Dyson who picked up his second win of the season after pitching seven innings and allowing just three hits. He also struck out six guys. Relievers Grimes Medlin and James Rawls did struggle down the stretch as they allowed six runs in the top of the ninth to make things interesting.
The series between the two tradition rich teams continues tomorrow at 4 p.m. While this isn't the last time these two teams will face each other, Tanner knows that a big win like this will be a confidence booster for his youthful team.
"I think it helps there's no question about it. It's a very, very good team Long Beach and I told our guys before the game you can rest assured that at the end of the year they're going to be in the mix," Tanner said. "I also told them after the game we had a very good game tonight but it means nothing for tomorrow. You can tell a little bit about them by the way they approached that last inning tonight. They've got 27 outs, they were going to take them. And they kept battling so tomorrow's going to be a new day."
-The back-to-back home runs by Mack and Ebert were the first time two Gamecocks have gone back-to-back since Justin Hopper and Scott Wingo against Clemson on April 16 last season.
-The 19 total hits are the most by USC since they played at the College of Charleston on March 18, 2008. They also had 19 hits in that game.
-The 15 runs are the highest offensive output by the team this season and the second time in Carolina Stadium history USC has reached double figures. The Gamecocks had 13 runs in the season opener against Duquesne.
-Catcher Justin Dalles picked off two Dirtbags trying to steal base on the night. Long Beach State came in having stolen 17 bases in their first seven games of the season.
Gamecocks' bats explode in 15-8 win
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