Max Schrock found the perfect way to tune up for the SEC season.
After entering the game batting under .200, South Carolina's junior left-fielder broke out with three hits, including a three-run home run, to lead the Gamecocks to a 13-3 victory to sweep the two-game series over Penn State Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium.
"I've been working on just simplifying my swing and finding a swing that I can repeat," Schrock said. "I've been working really hard, and that has been my focus. It's repeating my swing and finding a swing I can be comfortable with."
The No. 7 Gamecocks (14-3), who have won seven straight games, play host to Kentucky (13-3) Friday at 7 p.m. to start the weekend series.Schrock's perfect night at the plate featured three hits, including two singles, and his team-leading 17th walk as he boosted his batting average from .196 to .241. After blasting his home run over the right-field fence in the fourth inning to give the Gamecocks a 6-0 lead, he pushed his season totals to two home runs and 12 RBIs.
"We had a long talk Tuesday. He had to get a lot of things out," USC coach Chad Holbrook said. "He was trying to keep an even keel and trying to stay positive when everything that could go wrong for him offensively was going wrong. After that conversation we had, when he walked out the door, I said, 'He's fine." I didn't think he was pressing any more. He let the first part of the season go, and he's ready to start making a few things happen."
Schrock got plenty of help from his teammates in the season-high 15-hit outburst against the Nittany Lions (1-10).
Freshman designated hitter Alex Destino also had three hits, including an RBI single in the first inning off Penn State left-hander Jordan Donmoyer (0-1) and a three-run double in the sixth to give USC a 10-2 lead. And senior first baseman Kyle Martin added three more hits, including a solo homer in the seventh.
Holbrook was pleased to see all three of them bust out on the same night because they hold the key to USC's offense. When they struggled at the same time, the team scuffled to score runs.
"Those are legit middle-of-the-lineup type guys. Tonight they showed it," Holbrook said.
Sophomore shortstop Jordan Gore and freshman catcher Hunter Taylor each had a pair of hits and an RBI on the game.
"The whole team has been working with Busch (coach Brian Buscher) on shortening up our swings," Schrock said. "That showed today, and that was big the game before SEC play starts. Hopefully, we can ride some momentum into that first game."
Junior right-hander Preston Johnson (2-0) got the win with 2 1/3 relief innings. Sophomore right-hander Reed Scott pitched well with four one-hit shutout innings as the starter, but he didn't go the required five innings to collect the victory.
"Reed pitched the ball very well," Holbrook said. "Preston got hit a little bit, but he threw strikes in there and we played some defense behind him."
Holbrook also appreciated the full team effort, as he was able to empty his bench in the blowout in advance of the toughest part of the schedule."SEC starts this weekend, and we all know what that entails. All in all, a good night," he said.