The South Carolina baseball team took care of its midweek business before heading south this weekend.
With a four-run third inning, the Gamecocks knocked off The Citadel 4-2 Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium, one night after defeating Appalachian State.
Six USC pitchers combined on a seven-hitter and struck out 14 to top the Bulldogs (15-16) for the second straight week. The Gamecocks (23-11, 6-6 SEC), who have won three straight games, travel to No. 10 Florida (25-9, 6-6 SEC) for a three-game SEC series that begins Friday night. They are looking to win a conference series for the first time in four weeks.
Junior left-hander Vince Fiori (3-0) collected the victory with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Sophomore right-hander Taylor Widener got the final three outs despite loading the bases to pick up his eighth save.
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"Our pitchers, obviously, deserved a good fate," USC coach Chad Holbrook said. "We pitched well for the most part after the second inning. We put up seven zeroes the rest of the way."
South Carolina broke through in the third inning on a pair of two-out hits with the bases loaded. Jordan Gore dumped a ball into shallow right field that appeared as if it would be caught, but the right-fielder, center-fielder and second baseman watched it drop in for a single as the three runners circled the bases.
"I didn't think it was falling at all, to be honest with you," Gore said. "I thought we were out of the inning with the bases loaded. It was fortunate for us."
That hit gave USC its first lead of the game before Madison Stokes added an RBI single off The Citadel's Jacob Watcher (0-1) to up the lead to 4-2.
"We benefited from a bloop hit that led to four runs, and lucky for us, that was enough," Holbrook said. "I didn't think that would fall. I thought it would be routine. They were playing a little bit deep, maybe, in the outfield. The ball was traveling quite a bit, and the wind was blowing out early in the game."
If the ball doesn't drop, the Gamecocks might have been shut out. They managed just seven singles and left eight runners on base.
"We were extremely lucky to have won the game, probably quite honestly didn't deserve it," Holbrook said. "...I'm not extremely pleased with the way we played offensively at all."
The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead against freshman right-hander Clarke Schmidt on a pair of solo homers, the first one on the second pitch of the game by Austin Mapes and the second one in the second inning by William Kinney.
"That was a big win tonight. To get those other two wins, especially on (Saturday against Mississippi State), that's always a big win," Schmidt said. "We have a lot of momentum going into Florida. I think things are going to start falling our way. If we can just keep competing, I think we'll be good."
Holbrook, whose team got sterling defensive plays from shortstop Marcus Mooney in the seventh inning and first baseman Kyle Martin for the final out, certainly hopes that's the case.
"We'll go down there and see if we can play our best baseball of the year," he said. "I told our team that's what it's going to take."