Rust officially busted for Adam Hill.
For South Carolina baseball’s star pitcher, the first start of the year last week against VMI could hardly have gone worse, as Hill lasted just four innings and gave up seven earned runs for a ghastly ERA of 15.75.
This Friday, however, he was virtually unstoppable, allowing no hits or walks, striking out a Founders Park-record 14 batters and tying his career high with seven innings pitched, giving USC (5-1) an easy 7-0 win over Charleston Southern in the series opener.
“I won’t try to do justice for that performance for Adam, because I don’t have the words to talk about how great that outing was,” USC coach Mark Kingston said. “I think it shows a lot about him, his ability to bounce back. We talked about how last week was very atypical for him. Tonight was pretty typical for him.”
Hill himself called the outing “definitely the best game I’ve ever pitched.”
“I was mostly fastball and sliders, and my approach after last week was just attack hitters, get ahead, and just remember what’s gotten me to this point, and that’s what I tried to do out there,” he said.
Backing Hill up, the Gamecocks offense continued its prolific start to the 2018 season with four home runs from four different players — senior Jonah Bride, junior LT Tolbert, junior Jacob Olson and freshman Noah Campbell. USC is now averaging more than two long balls per game through six contests and has scored at least five runs in every game.
Star of the game: Hill. Could it be anyone else? The junior was simply masterful, mixing in velocity up to 94 miles per hour with biting off-speed pitches that made Charleston Southern hitters look foolish with half-swings all the way to his very last pitch, a strikeout.
“I definitely think this is one of the best games I’ve caught,” catcher Chris Cullen said. “It just seemed like every inning, he was a bulldog on the mound, he just knew he was going to come out and throw his stuff and attack the zone and not be afraid of the opposing hitters.”
Play of the game: In the top of the sixth inning, Charleston Southern got its first baserunner of the day with an error by freshman first baseman Jordan Holladay. With one out and one man on, Hill’s outstanding performance could have vanished in an instant, especially after the CSU runner, Josh Litchfield, stole second.
Instead, Hill calmly struck out the next two batters, preserving his no-hit effort and keeping the Gamecocks comfortably ahead.
“When the runner got on, everybody picks everybody up, so it was my job to pick them up, and that’s what I did,” Hill said.
Stat of the game: 2. Facing 22 batters through seven innings, Adam Hill had just two balls leave the infield with 14 strikeouts and five groundouts. After giving up two home runs in his first outing, Hill never even gave Charleston Southern a chance to do the same.
Power up and down the lineup: South Carolina got its four homers on Friday from its Nos. 1, 5, 6 and 8 hitters, once again showing that head coach Mark Kingston has offensive options and firepower at basically any spot in his lineup. Even late in the game, traditionally strong hitters like Carlos Cortes and Chris Cullen strung some hits together for an insurance run.
“This team is really offensive right now, and it’s really exciting to be with these guys,” Bride said.
Carlos Cortes still searching: Speaking of the talented sophomore, Cortes has had a rough start to 2018, going 3-20 through six games. As mentioned above, he’s shown flashes of the hitting ability that made him so dangerous late last year, and he also has eight walks, but it is still not quite what the Gamecocks likely wanted from him to begin the season.
What: South Carolina vs. Charleston Southern, Game 2
When: 2 p.m.. Saturday, Feb. 24
Where: Founders Park
Probable pitchers: USC – Cody Morris (So. RHP); Charleston Southern – Ryan Stoudemire (So. RHP)
Watch: Streaming on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN app
Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia, South Carolina