South Carolina stayed perfect on a perfect day for baseball.
With Sunday’s 9-4 victory against Southern Illinois at a sunny Carolina Stadium, the No. 7 Gamecocks swept the three-game series and improved to 6-0 on the season.
“I’m extremely happy with our weekend and being all to get all six games we’ve played against quality opponents,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.
Busting out the bats for 14 hits, including eight extra-base hits, USC rocked four SIU pitchers. Senior third baseman Adrian Morales led the offensive outburst with three hits, including a two-run homer and an RBI single. He credits a veteran team for knowing what it takes to win the games it’s supposed to win.
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“We played with heightened awareness,” Morales said. “That’s all we’re trying to do — battle every game and try to give it all we’ve got.”Tanner credits hard-nosed players like Morales, who also made several nice defensive plays, for making sure the Gamecocks play steady. Morales, who is tied for the team lead with eight RBIs, seems to make things happen when it matters the most.
“He’s a guy for me, if we’ve got two outs, I like to see him come to the plate, especially in that situation because he’s going to give you a competitive at-bat. He’s a clutch player for us,” Tanner said.
First baseman Christian Walker and shortstop Peter Mooney both added three hits, including two doubles and two RBIs each. Walker’s hot start coincides with the team’s strong play. He’s hitting a team-high .522 with four doubles, a homer and eight RBIs.
“It’s great to have this momentum,” Walker said. “In this game, you need all the momentum you can get and keep it rolling, keep the hits coming. Pitchers are throwing great, hitters are swinging the bat, and everything’s working out for us. It’s exactly what we wanted.”
Senior right-hander John Taylor threw 2
The Gamecocks jumped out to an early 6-0 lead with three runs in both the first and third innings. Jackie Bradley belted a two-run homer in the right-center bullpen in the first, and Morales lined one into the left-center bullpen in the third. That knocked SIU starter Todd Eaton (1-1) out of the game.
USC starter Adam Westmoreland sailed through the first four innings, but he ran into the trouble in the fifth, when the Salukis (2-5) scored four runs, which included a solo homer by Jordan Sivertsen, three walks, a hit batsman and sacrifice flies by Chris Murphy and Austin Montgomery.
Bradley’s running over-the-shoulder catch in deep center on Montgomery’s liner — which came on Taylor’s first batter with one out and the bases loaded — kept the inning from being worse for the Gamecocks. Mooney also made a nice play on a chopper to end the inning.
“We were very fortunate today after getting some runs early. We had a bad fifth inning that was very close to being disastrous,” he said. “The key was three outstanding defensive plays. That was huge for us. They were going to tie it up or go ahead at that point, and then we were able to come back in and answer back a little bit and extend our lead.”
Mooney’s bloop RBI double in the fifth and Walker’s two-run single in the sixth gave USC the cushion it needed to close out the sweep.
The Gamecocks play Furman on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Carolina Stadium. Junior left-hander Steven Neff will start for USC.
Ray Tanner postgame video
Adrian Morales postgame video
|Murphy, Chris cf||2||0||0||1||0||0||4||0||0|
|Johnson, Nick rf||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Pinnon, Blake dh||3||0||0||0||1||2||0||0||0|
|Duschinsky, Donny 3b||3||0||1||1||0||1||0||2||1|
|Montgomery, Austin 1b||3||0||1||1||0||0||11||0||0|
|Dowdy, Kollin rf/cf||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||3|
|Sivertsen, Jordan lf||4||1||1||1||0||2||2||0||0|
|Neece, Wes 2b||4||1||1||0||0||2||0||4||1|
|Huff, Dustin c||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||1||0|
|Bajer, Brian c||1||1||0||0||1||1||4||0||0|
|Harding, Brock ph||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Welch, Jake ss||2||1||1||0||2||0||1||0||0|
|Eaton, Todd p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Snyder, Aaron p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Dray, Tyler p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Johnson, Austin p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Evan Marzilli lf||5||0||1||0||0||0||2||0||1|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||2||1||0||1||0||3||0||1|
|Jackie Bradley Jr. cf||5||2||1||2||0||1||3||0||0|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||2||3||2||1||0||5||0||1|
|Brady Thomas c||5||0||0||0||0||2||10||0||1|
|Robert Beary c||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Adrian Morales 3b||4||2||3||3||0||0||0||2||1|
|Jake Williams dh||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Peter Mooney ss||3||0||3||2||0||0||1||3||0|
|Scott Wingo 2b||4||0||0||0||0||2||3||1||2|
|Adam Westmoreland p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Steven Neff p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|John Taylor p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Forrest Koumas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Patrick Sullivan p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
E - Montgomery(1); Dowdy(2); Neece(1). LOB - SIU 6; S. Carolina 8. 2B - Neece(2); Walker 2(4); Morales(3); Mooney 2(3). 3B - Williams(1). HR - Sivertsen(1); Bradley Jr.(2); Morales(1). HBP - Duschinsky. SH - Mooney(1). SF - Murphy, C.(1); Montgomery(1). SB - Matthews(3).
|Eaton, Todd L,1-1||2.2||5||5||4||2||1||1||0||0||0||13||15||3||3||56|
|John Taylor W,1-0||2.2||1||0||0||0||5||0||0||0||0||8||9||2||1||34|
Win - Taylor (1-0). Loss - Eaton (1-1). Save - None. WP - Eaton(3). HBP - by Neff (Duschinsky). PB - Thomas(1). Pitches/strikes: Eaton 56/32; Snyder, A. 35/24; Dray 27/18; Johnson, A. 21/17; Westmoreland 76/48; Neff 9/1; Taylor 34/26; Koumas 14/8; Sullivan 15/9.
Umpires - HP: Ben Sass 1B: Gary Swanson 3B: Joe Marion
Start: 1:15 pm
Neff faced 2 batters in the 5th.