After the top of the first inning took 20 minutes, perhaps Noah Campbell was antsy.
South Carolina’s designated hitter was again its leadoff hitter for USC’s 12-3 rout of Harvard on Wednesday at Founders Park. Campbell was stuck to the dugout while Carolina starter Logan Champman needed 33 pitches to finally retire the Crimson.
It was turning into a chilly evening, and the Gamecocks were in need of an early spark. So Campbell, a promising freshman, drew a walk, stole second and stole third by the time the next Carolina batter ended his plate appearance. He was back in the dugout after Madison Stokes’ RBI single.
Couple things to note for South Carolina (12-5) as a series with second-ranked and defending national champion Florida looms: The Gamecocks have won five consecutive games. Their top half of the order is heating up.
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“We want to be good one through nine,” said USC coach Mark Kingston, “but right now our one through four, especially, are doing a really good job of leading us.”
Campbell, TJ Hopkins, Stokes and LT Tolbert went a combined 6-for-12 with nine RBI on Wednesday. They’re a combined 31-for-69 (.449 batting average) with 26 RBI over the past five games.
Campbell, who’s seen his batting average rise 73 points over the past four games, was the centerpiece to it all against the Crimson (6-8).
He didn’t swing at any of Hunter Biggie’s first five pitches.
“I just went up there and tried to stick to my approach,” Campbell said of his initial at-bat against Harvard’s starter. “I tried to see balls in the zone and get on base.”
The ensuing steals are the fourth and fifth of his Carolina career.
“Once I get on base,” Campbell said, “Coach Kingston has faith in me to steal bases. I got the green light a couple times and took advantage of it. And then our offense is really good, so they got me in.”
Hopkins, a three-time leadoff hitter this season, was back in the No. 2 hole Wednesday. He went 1-for-2 with three RBI, three runs and two walks. Stokes is up to a sizzling .475 this season after going 2-for-4 with a couple RBI and a walk. Tolbert went 1-for-3 with two RBI. He’s driven in a team-best 17 this season.
“It’s good hitters that are settling in,” Kingston said. “That’s what it comes down to. I think they’re all kind of figuring out what it takes for them to be good and what their approach needs to be. They’re just performing well because they finally know their approach, they know how to take their approach into a game and they’re taking good swings.
“When you do all those things, the hits start to follow.”
USC pulled away with a five-run seventh inning.
Campbell, who finished 2-for-3 with three runs, had the frame’s highlight with an RBI single through the right side of the infield.
“I think he has hit his stride,” Kingston said of his touted rookie. “Also, he’s starting to hit into some better luck. He hit into some tough luck early in the season. He’s been hitting the ball hard for the majority of the year, now the hits are starting to fall in for him.
“And when he’s on base, he’s a a weapon.”
Chapman went 32/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits. Freshman right-hander Parker Coyne threw 12/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the first win of his career.
USC opens SEC play against the Gators (16-3) on Friday. First pitch from Founders Park is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“That’s the kind of game you want to play going into a conference weekend,” Kingston said.