Later, it would seem an unbelievable story, but early in Friday’s outing, USC pitcher Sam Dyson was worried about the speed on his fastball.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Dyson said. “It came around in the later innings.”
By the end of the game, Dyson was being timed at 99 mph on the radar gun scoreboard at Carolina Stadium.
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It proved a resounding finish to a complete-game win for Dyson in a series-opening 8-3 victory against Auburn.
It was a critical win for the Gamecocks (25-13, 8-8 SEC), opening the second half of the SEC regular season with a victory. They have a chance today to get over .500 in league play for the first time this season.
It was also an important outing for Dyson, with the high-90s timing an added plus.
Although he was 3-1 in his last four starts, Dyson was hit hard in three of them. And during SEC play he had just one quality start before Friday, with an ERA of just under 9.00.
He started Friday well, retiring the Tigers (24-14, 7-9) on just six pitches in the first inning. But he and his coach were concerned.
“Early in the game he was throwing 86, 87, and I go, Sam are you OK, because the ball’s not coming out really good right now,’ coach Ray Tanner said.
That turned around, obviously, and Tanner allowed Dyson to throw 134 pitches.
Dyson retired the last eight batters he faced, including four consecutive between the eighth and ninth innings. His eight strikeouts tied a career high.
“He’s a monster, man,” said USC’s Andrew Crisp, who admitted he stole a few looks to the scoreboard to see how hard Dyson was throwing.
“I look a lot for Dyson, because not many people can throw it 98, 99 mph,” Crisp said. “I saw him taking a look back too.”
Crisp did his part for the offense, collecting a game-high three hits, including a two-run double. Seven different Gamecocks had a hit, and eight reached base.
South Carolina bunched its runs together, getting three apiece in the second and fifth, and two in the eighth.
Auburn wasn’t able to expand on its rallies. It scored one in the second, but left a runner on third. When it got another run in the sixth, it left two runners on.
The Tigers also left a runner on third in the seventh inning.
Auburn’s Kevin Patterson had the game’s only home run, a solo shot solo in the third.
Otherwise, the game belonged to Dyson.
“It seemed like today the game kind of (flew) by,” Dyson said.
Auburn pitcher hit. There was a scary moment in the eighth inning when Auburn pitcher Chris O’Neil was hit in the head by a liner off the bat of USC’s DeAngelo Mack.
There was an audible gasp from the crowd when O’Neil went down. But the sophomore from Birmingham got up after a few seconds, and walked off the field on his own power.
“To see O’Neil run off the field after that, I want to make a trade for him,” Tanner said. “What a shot he took.”