By John Whittle
COLUMBIA, SC (TheBigSpur.com) — Another day, another big scoring output for South Carolina in a 14-2 win over Charleston Southern on Saturday. The Gamecocks (6-1) have scored at least five runs in every game this season.
Averaging just over eight runs per game entering Saturday’s slugfest, the Gamecocks put up multiple runs in four innings in the win. Three different players hit home runs bringing the total to 16 on the season through just seven games.
Included in the three home runs in the game from South Carolina players was the first of the year for Carlos Cortes. Junior Jacob Olson had his team-leading fourth blast while senior Justin Row has already matched his total from last year hitting his second.
“We have high hopes for this offense and a lot of talented hitters,” first-year head coach Mark Kingston said. “Guys have taken to our approach and we have players who can adopt our approach in terms of being able to drive the ball and have the batters eye to lay off the ball. It’s been a good marriage between our approach and the hitters we get to work with right now.”
While it took Charleston Southern into the eighth inning to get a hit in the series-opener, it took just two batters to get a hit and its first run on Saturday. Catcher Mike Sconzo launched a full count fastball onto the concourse in left field in the top of the first inning.
It was the second home run that sophomore Cody Morris has allowed on the year, but he was great on the mound after that hit. Morris left the game in the sixth inning with two runners on base having only thrown only 81 pitches. He had a cramp in his right leg and was removed.
“One walk, which is once again very encouraging, and it’s something we’re stressing very much to our pitching staff,” Kingston said. “He probably could have gone a little bit further but with the score what it was and with the cramp, we just didn’t see any reason to push it at that point.”
South Carolina erased the deficit in the third inning as senior Hunter Taylordelivered an RBI single while freshman Noah Campbell followed him with a two-RBI single for the first multi-run inning of the game.
The game would start to get out of hand in the fourth inning with another three-spot for the home team. Cortes hit a two-strike, two-out, two-run RBI single to right field and that was followed by an RBI double to left by TJ Hopkins. A two-run home run by Olson in the fifth made it 8-1.
“We all knew we were going to have a little more power than last year,” Olson said. “I think we’re just swinging it good, we’re feeling it, and it’ll keep rolling.”
The Gamecocks seemingly put the game away with a six-run sixth inning that saw both Cortes and Row homer off of two different pitchers.
All nine starters had at least one hit in the game with seven of them having at least one RBI. Cortes led the team with four RBIs in the game while Row chipped in three with his three-run home run.
Cortes was 2-for-4 on the day with two runs scored to go along with his four RBIs.
“He took better swings and I thought he was in better position to hit the ball,” Kingston said. “When he got a pitch to hit, he was able to hit it.”
Morris, who struck out three and allowed four hits, was replaced by sophomore Sawyer Bridges with two on in the sixth inning. A pair of fly balls allowed one of those runs to score. Bridges went on to retire six of the seven batters he faced with one strikeout.
Freshman Carmen Mlodzinski made his first career appearance coming in with two runners on in the seventh inning, and proceeded to get a fly out and two strikeouts. Junior Graham Lawson pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the game.
“I thought Carmen looked outstanding,” Kingston said. “Ninety-four with a hard slider. He threw strikes, and that’s very encouraging. That’s a guy who can be a big time guy for us, another big time arm out of the bullpen, and potentially as a starter. My guess is at this point he can fit in as another big time arm at the back of the bullpen. That’s another weapon we have back there.”
As a staff, South Carolina has a 1.86 earned run average on the season and have 66 strikeouts against 22 walks. Opponents are hitting just .175 against the USC pitching staff.
South Carolina looks to sweep the series with a win in Sunday’s series finale, which is now scheduled for 12 p.m. at Founders Park. Junior Ridge Chapman will get the ball for the Gamecocks against right-handed pitcher Tyler Weekley for the Buccaneers.
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