Historic offense leads the way again for USC

The bats were sizzling again at Carolina Stadium on Wednesday night, and South Carolina (35-9) set a new home mark for home runs in a 14-6 win over Winthrop (21-22). Jose Mata picked up the win in relief for the Gamecocks, who now head to Kentucky to face the Wildcats in a critical SEC weekend series.

On Wednesday night the Gamecocks took on the Winthrop Eagles for the first time in eleven years. After the beating they received tonight from the big bats of Carolina, it may be that long before the Eagles try their luck again.

The Gamecocks set a Carolina Stadium record for most home runs by the home team, hitting seven on the night to lead the way in the big victory. This all came one game after the team set the mark for runs and hits in a 20-15 home win against Alabama on Sunday.

The win also ran Carolina's record in midweek games this season to a perfect 8-0.

Despite the big advantage in runs, Carolina only outhit Winthrop by three, with seventeen hits to the Eagles' fourteen.

It was advantage Sean Sullivan in the first inning as he took Colby Holmes deep to left field for his sixth homer of the season and a 1-0 Winthrop lead in the first. One of the big storylines coming into the game was the potential for a matchup between Sean and his brother Patrick, a reliever for USC.

Although Patrick came into the game to close it out in the ninth, he did not get a chance to face his brother.

The Gamecocks struck back quickly in the first, and thanks to some booming bats, took a quick 3-1 lead. It started with Whit Merrifield going deep on the first pitch of the evening from Ken Monteith to tie the game. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a deep blast of his own, and after a Christian Walker groundout, Jeffery Jones joined the party with a solo shot of his own for a 3-1 advantage.

Monteith would last just over an inning, giving up five runs on six hits in the contest. He took the loss for Winthrop as well to fall to 0-2 on the season.

Both Winthrop and USC tacked on two runs in the second, with the Gamecocks regaining the lead at 5-3 at the conclusion of the inning. For the Gamecocks it was Bobby Haney doubling to lead off the inning and scoring on a Scott Wingo single, before Merrifield went deep for the second time in the game. Tonight marked the first multi-homer game of Merrifield's career, and it took him just two at-bats to get there.

It was also a big night for Whit on the stat sheet, as he took the team lead in home runs away from Scott Wingo, passing him with ten on the year.

In addition to Merrifield's big night, Haney would go on to finish 4-4 with a walk, also hitting his first home run of the year. Haney made a nice recovery from his terrible outing on Sunday against Alabama where he went 0-6.

The Gamecocks batted around and scored five times in the fourth to blow the game open and take a 10-3 lead. The inning started innocently enough, with a Bobby Haney single, before Wingo and Merrifield reached on bunts, loading the bases with nobody out. Bradley Jr. picked up an RBI on a bases loaded walk before Walker contributed an RBI single. Bradley Jr. would go on to score on a bases loaded groundout off the bat of Brady Thomas, and Adam Matthews registered an RBI double to complete the scoring.

Winthrop added a run in the top of the sixth, as Matt Pierpont brought Matt Thielepape in on an RBI groundout. It was the first run allowed by Jose Mata in 15.2 innings, and although he would go on to allow two earned runs on the night, he did pick up the win to move to 5-0 on the year.

Christian Walker went deep in the sixth to get a run back for the Gamecocks. Not only was it his fifth blast of the year, but also the fifth home run of the night for USC, tying the season high set against the Citadel on March 30th. However, the Gamecock bats were not done launching balls over the outfield wall.

After USC gave up two runs and Winthrop closed the margin to five runs, Bobby Haney hit his first home run of the year to give Carolina a 12-6 lead, and in the process set a Carolina Stadium record for USC.

It was their sixth homer of the night, as USC's offensive onslaught continued to spill over from Sunday.

However, the home runs weren't over, with Jackie Bradley Jr. going deep in the seventh as well, a two-run shot to extend the Gamecock lead to 14-6.

With Winthrop threatening again in the eighth, John Taylor worked out of a bases loaded jam with one out after giving up three straight singles.

After a visit from Mark Calvi on the mound, Taylor struck out Sullivan and got McBride to ground into a fielder's choice to end it and hold the Eagles scoreless.

It was as close as the Eagles would get, as Patrick Sullivan would work the perfect ninth inning to close it out and send the Gamecocks on the road to Lexington with a 14-6 win.

Merrifield finished the game 3-4 with two RBI to go along with four runs scored. Jackie Bradley Jr. finished 2-4 with four runs driven in.

Walker's homer in the eighth finished off a 3-4 night at the dish to go along with three RBI. Jones, Thomas, Matthews, and Wingo all drove in a run apiece for USC as well.

For both Merrifield and Bradley Jr. tonight marked the first multi-homer game of their careers.

It wasn't all bad for the Eagles, who did finish with six runs on the night. Sullivan, Crane, Thielepape, and Gamblin all drove in runs.

Sullivan led off the game with a home run, and finished his night 2-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Tyler McBride, Thielepape, and Gamblin all led the way for Winthrop with two hits apiece.

USC will take its 35-9 overall record and 16-5 conference mark on the road this weekend to face the Kentucky Wildcats. They currently hold a one game lead over the Florida Gators in the SEC Eastern Division in a race that appears destined to be decided in a few weeks when Florida visits Carolina Stadium.

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