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April 23, 2010

Gamecocks hammer 'Dawgs in opener

Blake Cooper consistently hit the strike zone. Georgia's Justin Grimm sometimes had problems locating the catcher's mitt. The difference in pitching showed up on the scoreboard as South Carolina bombed the Bulldogs 11-4 on Friday at Foley Field.

ATHENS, Ga. - Blake Cooper consistently hit the strike zone. Georgia's Justin Grimm sometimes had problems locating the catcher's mitt.

The difference in pitching showed up on the scoreboard as South Carolina bombed the Bulldogs 11-4 on Friday at Foley Field.

South Carolina turned 12 hits, eight walks, three wild pitches and a hit batsman into 11 runs. Meanwhile, Gamecocks' right-hander Cooper held Georgia to seven hits and struck out nine in eight innings.

"I was able to get ahead in the count, and I was able to locate in," Cooper said. "That would open up the outer half of the plate, then I'd go with a curveball or slider. Every pitcher is more effective when they get ahead, and that's what you want to do."

Cooper allowed seven hits and four runs with nine strikeouts and one walk in eight innings. Georgia's top four hitters in the lineup, Johnathan Taylor, Peter Verdin and pinch hitter Zach Taylor, Levi Hyams and Zach Cone, batted a combined 2-for-17 in the game.

"He pitched well enough for us to win and that's the key," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "There's some good pitching in this league. There are a lot of Friday night guys who are prototype and we've got a guy who's not a prototype guy but he's pretty good. I'm esthetic about the year Blake Cooper's had for us."

Georgia (12-26, 3-13 SEC) has lost three conference games in a row and remains in last place in the SEC East, while South Carolina (30-8, 12-4) is alone in first place in the division.

Georgia and South Carolina play the second game of the series today beginning at 1 p.m.

Grimm (2-6) pitched five innings and gave up seven hits and nine runs (all earned) with six walks and three strikeouts.

"It was one of those nights where I just couldn't find the zone," Grimm said. "The third inning, I couldn't find the zone. I settled back in for the third and the fourth. But there were too many leadoff walks. I left the ball up too many times on first pitch and gave up a couple of home runs. But we've got to continue to work hard and come back to help the team."

USC's Whit Merrifield and Adam Matthews each hit a home run. Nick Ebert had three RBIs, and Morales added three hits.

"The balls really do fly here," Matthews said. "You go out and try to have some good-quality at-bats. You need to make good swings, and good things might happen. If you get good situations, then let it fly."

The Gamecocks all but put the game out of reach in the third when Grimm loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman.

A walk to Jackie Bradley forced in the game's first run. Nick Ebert then looped a 2-run double to give the Gamecocks a 3-0 lead. Adrian Morales beat out an infield hit for another RBI before Kyle Enders connected on a two-run single to give South Carolina a 6-0 lead in the third and permanent possession of the game's momentum.

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