The South Carolina baseball team ended last season with six straight wins to claim a national championship. It started this one with three more.
Using a four-run sixth inning, the Gamecocks broke open a scoreless tie on their way to a 6-0 victory against Santa Clara at Carolina Stadium. Sunday’s win gave USC a series sweep and a successful start to the title defense.
“It wasn’t an easy weekend for us, but we did some good things (with) some good defense, quality pitching and timely hitting,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.
First baseman Christian Walker’s two-run double got the scoring started in the sixth, and sophomore left-hander Adam Westmoreland, who missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, pitched 52/3 shutout innings in his first outing since a relief appearance in the 2009 SEC tournament.
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Although Westmoreland didn’t pick up the victory, he held the Broncos to three hits and struck out five in a 79-pitch performance. Jose Mata earned the win in relief and combined with Westmoreland and fellow relievers Logan Munson and Forrest Koumas on a four-hit shutout. Walker, Jackie Bradley and Adam Matthews each had a pair of hits in USC’s 10-hit attack, and Evan Marzilli added a pair of RBIs.
“We definitely tried to take the momentum from last year into this year and play with the confidence that we were the best team in the country,” said Walker, who also had a run-scoring single in the seventh. “You definitely can tell, even when it’s a 0-0 game going into the fifth or sixth, you feel like you still have control of the game and still have the confidence that you know we’re going to put some runs up and back our pitchers up.”
Westmoreland was thrilled to be back on the mound, and his teammates, coaches and the crowd of 7,316 was glad to see him there.
“It feels awesome to be able to go back out there and do it again. I felt like the crowd gave me a really warm welcome. It’s just good to be back,” said Westmoreland, a former Brookland-Cayce standout.
Tanner liked watching the 6-foot-5, 270-pound lefty, who has dropped 30 pounds from his freshman season, mix up his pitches and attack the hitters. He had one walk.
“He’s comfortable. That was great to see today for me,” Tanner said. “That guy hasn’t been there in a long time. For him to go out there and be relaxed and enjoy being a part of things was great. I’m happy for him.”
Westmoreland’s outing ended in the sixth when he issued a two-out walk to Curtis Wagner with the game scoreless. After Mata walked his first batter, Santa Clara’s Kyle DeMerritt delivered a sharp single to right. But Matthews made a perfect throw home to nail Wagner at the plate and end the inning.
Matthews started the bottom of the sixth with a bunt single and went to third on Bradley’s single through the right side. Walker then drilled a 3-2 pitch off the left-field wall for a double that gave the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead and knocked out Santa Clara starter Chris Mendoza. USC added two more runs in the inning off a trio of Santa Clara relievers.
Bradley went 7-for-12 with a homer and three RBIs in the series, and Walker finished the weekend with six hits in 12 at-bats, including a homer and six RBIs.
“They’re very disciplined hitters with their approach,” Tanner said. “They’re good players, and if we can get some guys on base, we’ve got a chance for those guys to drive some people in.”
And the hitters like having the support of a healthy staff, such as Westmoreland.
“We were happy for him,” Matthews said. “Hopefully, he can continue and have a big year for us.”
Ray Tanner postgame
|OZANNE M cf||4||0||0||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|OZANNE D ph||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Peter Mooney ss||4||0||0||0||1||0||1||2||0|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||2||2||0||0||1||3||1||2|
|Jackie Bradley Jr. cf||4||1||2||0||0||1||2||0||0|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||1||2||3||0||0||9||0||2|
|Brady Thomas c||3||1||0||0||1||1||9||1||1|
|Adrian Morales 3b||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|Michael Roth dh||3||0||1||0||1||1||0||0||0|
|Robert Beary lf||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Evan Marzilli lf||1||0||1||2||0||0||1||0||0|
|Scott Wingo 2b||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||3||3|
|Adam Westmoreland p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jose Mata p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Logan Munson p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Forrest Koumas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
DP - SCU 1. LOB - SCU 6; S. Carolina 8. 2B - HERBST(1); Bradley Jr.(3); Walker(1). HBP - Morales; Beary. SH - Matthews(2); Morales(1). SF - Marzilli(1). SB - Matthews(1).
|Jose Mata W,1-0||0.2||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||3||1||0||12|
Win - Mata (1-0). Loss - MENDOZA (0-1). Save - None. WP - WESTERBERG; GRAHAM. HBP - by MENDOZA (Beary); by GRAHAM (Morales). PB - PERRY(2). Pitches/strikes: MENDOZA 82/44; DEERING 4/0; WESTERBERG 10/4; GRAHAM 40/28; Westmoreland 79/51; Mata 12/6; Munson 5/4; Koumas 32/18.
Start: 1:30 pm Time: 2:38 Attendance: 7316