USC plays long ball to blast The Citadel

Five home runs allow players to win 600th game for Tanner as Gamecocks coach

Special to The StateMarch 30, 2010 

South Carolina's Colby Holmes pitches against the Citadel in the sixth inning at Carolina Stadium.

C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM

Winning his 600th career game was not lost on South Carolina coach Ray Tanner.

But Tuesday's 10-1 victory against The Citadel was fitting in that the Gamecocks did it in a way that has been customary of many of Tanner's teams over the past 14 seasons, as USC belted a season-high five home runs that tied a Carolina Stadium record.

South Carolina, ranked 12th by Baseball America, had been finding other ways to score runs. Tanner has admitted this team might have to use more small ball instead of waiting on the 3-run home run this year.

In the first 24 games, the Gamecocks had 23 home runs. That number is low for a team that had hit at least 92 home runs in each of the past four seasons - topping 100 in the past three.

"I was thinking in the seventh or eighth inning when we had a few balls get out, it hadn't been there for us all year," Tanner said. "We were just talking back in the locker room that maybe we'll hit some in the second half. It was good to see some balls get out."

All that changed to help South Carolina (20-5) avenge last year's sweep by the Bulldogs (18-7) and win for the 14th time in 15 games.

Jackie Bradley drilled the first pitch he saw to the batter's eye in straight-away center to give the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead two batters into the game.

Bradley has never questioned if the power numbers were eventually going to come around - not just for him but for the entire team.

"It hasn't been a concern," Bradley said. "We're winning so we'll be known as a scrappy team."

Robert Beary added a RBI double to score Adam Matthews later in the first.

The Citadel starter T.J. Clarkson did not make it out of the second inning when South Carolina scored three more runs. Bradley - who tied a season-high with three hits - added a RBI single. Merrifield reached home on a pass ball before Matthews drew a bases loaded walk from reliever Matt Reifsnider.

Clarkson pitched eight solid innings against USC last year when the Bulldogs won 5-3 in Columbia.

"We let them get out the gate and they have too much pitching when you fall behind that much that early," Citadel coach Fred Jordan said. "We pitched behind in the count all night and if they know they are getting fastballs, they aren't going to miss it. T.J. was up in the zone and behind in the count so he wasn't very effective."

The home run barrage started in the sixth inning, when Scott Wingo led off with his fifth home run of the season.

In the seventh, South Carolina went deep on three out of four hitters. Jeffery Jones tied Wingo and Merrifield for the team lead by hitting his fifth home run of the year to lead off. After Matthews grounded out, Robert Beary and Michael Roth hit back-to-back shots, the first on the season for both players.

Beary had four hits to lead the way.

That was more than enough for Colby Holmes and three USC relievers. The freshman was making his second start and went five innings. The only run he allowed was a home run by Brad Felder in the third inning.

John Taylor, Matt Price and Ethan Carter closed out the final four innings by allowing one hit.

But back to that 600 victories - Tanner is 600-271 at USC and 995-444 in 23 seasons.

"I've never made a play, never gotten a hit, and I've never fielded one," Tanner said. "I'm grateful for the former players and great coaches. I'm just glad to be in this position."

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