Gamecocks drop homers on Buccaneers

If Tuesday night's trouncing of Wofford was a bounce-back game from a poor weekend for the Gamecocks, then Wednesday's game was a more-of-the-same game as Carolina made quick work of Charleston Southern defeating the Buccaneers 10-2 in front of an announced crowd of 6,573 fans. Reliever Jose Mata took the win as the Gamecocks improved to 38-11 on the season and the Buccaneers dropped to 17-31.

Much like Tuesday night, the Gamecocks scored early and often on the Buccaneers and much like Tuesday night they got excellent starting pitching from a young lefty looking for a chance to pitch on the weekend again.

The Gamecock bats stayed alive as every USC starting position player had at least one hit and Carolina got two-run home runs from Nick Ebert and Bobby Haney, and solo shots from Christian Walker and Adam Matthews. Brady Thomas and Whit Merrifield added RBI doubles as every RBI but two came on an extra base hit.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., Ebert, Walker, Thomas and Matthews each had multi-hit games with Matthews leading the way with three. At the end of the night Carolina had 16 hits on the board.

"This was the first time we've played two mid-week games [in a while], so I think it was the perfect time for it," Ebert said. "We struggled a little bit in Kentucky with the bats and now we've got them going again. Let's hope it rolls right in to Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

Freshman Tyler Webb got the start on the mound for the Gamecocks in what may have been a tryout to see just how much he will factor in on those three days.

While Webb didn't have the no-hitter Nolan Belcher did when he left last night's contest, he didn't have the control issues that seemed to haunt Tanner and Belcher either. The long, lanky lefty was pulled after just four shutout innings of work but gave up just three hits and one walk while striking out four and throwing 59 pitches.

"I thought he pitched pretty well," head coach Ray Tanner said. "Command was pretty good – I think he had one walk. [He] was a little bit sneaky with his fastball in the upper 80s. He got some offspeed pitches over the plate. He did a nice job and we got him out [of the game] so he will be available [this weekend]."

"I felt pretty good," Webb said. "The ball was coming out well. I just worked on throwing a lot of strikes, getting the ball down. I've been high the last couple of outings, so that was my main goal to keep the ball down and throw a lot of strikes."

Webb was able to do just that and leaves Tanner and pitching coach Mark Calvi with a decision on their hands. Tanner said that Webb, Belcher and Jay Brown all could potentially start Sunday's game against Arkansas.

Tanner was able to pull Belcher and Webb early enough in each game for them to be available this weekend and also got good innings in relief to save his bevy of talented arms for the weekend showdown.

Six Gamecock pitchers combined to pitch the final six innings of the game allowing just two runs on two hits. Mata was the first reliever in for Webb taking the win from the young starter who didn't pitch enough innings to qualify.

"We had some options," Tanner said. "And not only did we have some options, those guys performed pretty well.

"It would have been a lot of wheels turning in the dugout on how we were going to get through the game and then be ready for the weekend," if the Gamecocks didn't have the depth in the bullpen, Tanner said.

The Buccaneers first run of the game came in the seventh when Holmes walked four batters including a bases loaded walk. Patrick Sullivan also allowed a meaningless solo home run in the eighth. Mata, Parker Bangs and Steven Neff held the Buccaneers hitless. John Taylor worked the final inning of the game giving up just one hit.

With the exceptional pitching the Gamecock bats got the only runs they would need early on. After Whit Merrifield struck out to start the game, Bradley floated an outside pitch to just right of center field as it dropped in front of the center fielder for the first hit of the game. Later that inning Adrian Morales knocked in the first run of the contest with a liner to left scoring Bradley easily, though Walker was gunned down at third to prevent further damage.

Carolina added three more in the second when Matthews crushed his one-out solo home run just off the right side of the batter's eye behind the wall in center field for his fifth home run of the season.

Thomas' line drive to right missed a back-to-back job by just a few feet, but Haney took care of the rest when he brought Thomas in on his long fly over the Gamecock bullpen in right center for his second homer of the year.

The onslaught continued in the third as Walker led off the inning with a towering shot into left center on the first pitch of the inning and the Gamecock lead grew to 5-0.

"It definitely helps your confidence when your team is hitting good," Webb said. "You don't feel like you've got to be that perfect."

Tanner said Tuesday night that home runs could come in bunches for Ebert and the senior who hit 23 home runs last season proved him right Wednesday. After a Bangs single and Morales fielder's choice, Ebert blasted a line drive into the visitor's bullpen in left center for his second home run in as many games and sixth long ball on the season.

That was finally enough to chase Charleston Southern starter Charlie McCready from the game. McCready took the loss giving up seven runs on nine hits in just 2.1 innings pitched.

The Carolina bats cooled off momentarily through the fourth before Thomas and Merrifield's RBI-doubles pushed the lead to 9-0 in the fifth.

The two teams exchanged runs in the seventh and the Buccaneers added a solo home run in the eighth to cut the deficit to 10-2.

After two midweek games in the friendly confines of Carolina Stadium, the Gamecocks will travel to Arkansas for a three-game series with major SEC title implications. First pitch of game 1 is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET in a battle of unbeatens between 9-0 Blake Cooper and 8-0 Drew Smyly.

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