One thing South Carolina struggled with last season was winning games when it didn’t play its best. It’s safe to say it found a way Wednesday night without its best effort.
John Jones and Alex Destino hit first-inning home runs and Reed Scott and Josh Reagan pitched an efficient final four innings to lead South Carolina to a 5-4 victory over Furman at Founders Park.
“You’re not going to play best baseball all 56 (games),” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “Those games you don’t play your best baseball and still find a way to win makes it a little more meaningful to me. I don’t think the players feel great about their performance but that’s okay. We found a to win.”
Jones and Destino got things going quickly for the Gamecocks (12-2). TJ Hopkins walked to lead off the bottom of the first and one out later, Jones drove his team-leading fourth home run over the right field wall for a 2-0 lead. Destino followed with his third home run – a towering shot that landed on the street beyond the right field fence.
“It was a fastball that caught more of the plate than the pitcher wanted it to,” Jones said of his home run. “It was the first inning, first pitch, I was just trying to get the head out and do some damage.”
But USC struggled from that point despite Furman pitching allowing eight walks and hitting two batters. The Gamecocks stranded 10 base runners and could never deliver the big hit to put the Paladins (7-5) away.
“We knew what kind of pitcher he was,” Jones said. “He kept us off balance pretty well so that’s something we need to Improve on.”
South Carolina scored the decisive runs in the third inning on one hit. Destino walked and Dom Thompson-Williams singled before Tolbert sacrificed them over. Hunter Taylor walked to load the bases and DC Arendas scored Destino with a sacrifice fly. After a Marcus Mooney walk, Hopkins had the game-winning RBI on a two-out walk.
Canaan Cropper started and didn’t pitch well. He allowed two runs on three hits in two innings and pitched behind in the count most of the night. Colton Provey allowed three hits and run in 2/3 off an inning before Tyler Haswell settled things down.
Haswell earned the win with 2 1/3 innings of relief. He allowed a run on two hits but slowed Furman enough to maintain the early cushion. Scott and Reagan closed the door with four solid innings of relief.
Holbrook was pleased to see the effort by the back end of the bullpen.
“We did pitch well at the end,” Holbrook said. “Tyler gave us a good 2 1/3 innings then Scott and Reagan were terrific at the end.”
Reagan earned his fourth save of the season. The left-hander from Lexington has allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings pitched.
Star of the game: Reed Scott kept the Paladins at bay when it was most needed. He came in with South Carolina leading 5-4 and didn’t allow a run on two hits with a walk and a strike out.
Play of the game: Furman trailed by one but had runners at first and second with two outs in the seventh inning. Jake Crawford barreled one up that looked like it might be trouble but Jonah Bride snagged the line drive to keep USC in the lead.
Stat of the game: 6. South Carolina set a new Founders Park record with six stolen bases. DC Arendas led the effort with two stolen bases in the fifth inning
Soft tossing lefty: South Carolina will not see many pitcher’s like Furman left-hander Harry Norman in the SEC. He was hitting the lower 80’s and upper 70’s on the radar gun but he kept the USC hitters off balance with his off speed stuff. The Gamecocks only scratched out 3 hits in the final five innings.
Solid bullpen: After the shaky start by Cropper and Colton Provey, Haswell, Scott and Reagan came in and slammed the door. The three were able to get ahead in the count and that helped the Gamecocks keep off the scoreboard in the final four innings.
What: South Carolina vs. Charleston Southern
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Founders Park
Watch: SEC Network Plus (Digital)
Radio: 107.5 FM