KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – South Carolina’s hitters provided plenty of run support for USC’s banged up pitching staff as the Gamecocks topped Tennessee 10-2 Sunday afternoon to finish off a sweep of the Volunteers.
No. 10 Carolina (14-5, 3-0) pounded out 14 hits and used a seven-run fifth inning to take control as the Gamecocks won their seventh straight game.
Eight of South Carolina’s nine starters had at least one hit with Matt Williams, LT Tolbert, Madison Stokes, Alex Destino and Hunter Taylor having multi-hit days.
“We had some really good swings up and down the lineup I thought,” Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook said. “We played three pretty solid days of baseball here. It’s easy to be satisfied after you win two, and they didn’t want any part of just being happy to get two. They came out today with energy and juice and played really well.”
Williams finished 3-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI, while Destino and Stokes homered. Destino led the way with three RBIs and Tolbert and Stokes each added a pair.
Stokes got the Gamecocks on the board with a two-run homer in the second inning and added a double in the seven-run fifth.
In Carolina’s big inning the first six batters recorded hits. The Gamecocks sent 12 batters to the plate and had eight hits in the frame.
“We got a little momentum going, everybody’s feeling good about themselves and the ball fell in for us,” Holbrook said. “We were complete. We played good, clean, sound baseball for three consecutive days against a really good team and I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”
With Clarke Schmidt out for the weekend USC relied on freshmen on the mound and they got the job done.
Making his second start of his career, Cody Morris got the Gamecocks off to a strong start holding the Vols to one run in 3 2/3 innings of work.
Fellow freshman Sawyer Bridges relieved Morris and surrendered one run in 1 1/3 innings before giving way to freshman Colby Lee.
Lee pitched four scoreless frames with five strikeouts and only allowed one batter to reach.
“I felt great. I felt like I had my best stuff today,” Lee said. “Coach told me I might get a chance to pitch today so I kind of expected it and got my mind right. I was ready when I got in there.”
South Carolina’s pitching staff was aided by strong defense throughout the game.
In the first inning Jay Charleston tried to bunt for a hit and Bride barehanded the well-placed bunt and fired to first for an out.
With two on and one out in the second inning Brandon Chinea hit a bouncer up the middle that was fielded by Stokes, who tossed with his glove to Tolbert. The second baseman barehanded the toss and fired to Williams, who picked Tolbert’s throw to complete the double play.
Later in the game Destino made a nice running grab in left field before crashing into the wall.
“We played pretty darn good defense all weekend long,” Holbrook said. “I tell the guys all the time if you pitch and play good defense you have a chance to win. You can pile some wins on top of each other if you stay consistent in those two areas.”
Holbrook rested leadoff hitter TJ Hopkins and catcher Chris Cullen, who are both banged up. Hopkins continues to battle a sore quad, while Cullen has a sore knee. Closer Tyler Johnson did not travel with the team due to a sore forearm and Schmidt was out this weekend with an oblique strain.
South Carolina hosts Charleston Southern on Wednesday before beginning a three-game series against Alabama in Columbia on Friday.
“We don’t play until Wednesday so guys have two or three days to kind of heal up,” Holbrook said. “Hopefully Clarke and Tyler back home and TJ and Cullen and our other guys that have little bumps and bruises will heal up and get ready to go because we’ve got some really difficult games ahead.”