South Carolina fine-tuned things one final time Wednesday night at Founders Park with a 15-2 victory against Davidson two days before SEC play begins Friday night against Arkansas.
The Gamecocks battered nine Wildcat pitchers for 19 hits to run their winning streak to seven games.
Gene Cone and Marcus Mooney led the attack with four RBIs each, but Mooney was part of the bottom of the order that sparkled for the Gamecocks. The No. 7-8-9 batters – T.J. Hopkins, D.C. Arendas and Mooney – combined to go 9-for-11 with eight RBIs, two walks, a sacrifice bunt and a hit by pitch.
South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook was pleased with the effort, especially when his middle of the lineup guys struggled.
“It was a nice win for us,” Holbrook said. “We got some big hits from down at the bottom of the order. Those guys really swung the bats well. And Cone at the top of the lineup was big with four RBI as well.”
Mooney said he reflected on his success in previous years the past couple of nights.
“I really took a step back and thought about what I used to do and that was have fun,” the senior shortstop said.
Colie Bowers got his first career start but couldn’t get out of the third inning. Matt Vogel was able to pitch out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the third inning with two strikeouts and a grounder to the mound. The junior right-hander picked up his first career win in allowing a run in two innings of work. He gave up two hits with three strikeouts and a walk.
“That was a big point in the game,” Holbrook said. “Hopefully, that gives Matt a boost of confidence going forward. He has a power arm, and if he’s in the strike zone, he’s hard to handle.”
South Carolina (17-2) enters conference play in nearly the same situation as last season. The Gamecocks were 14-2 in 2015 and swept the opening SEC series against Kentucky before closing the season by going 15-23 and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.
Holbrook sees a big difference from last season.
“There’s been a couple of games here and there I haven’t been pleased,” Holbrook said. “We have a group that gets along with each other. They love coming to the park, they love going to work, they love practicing. That doesn’t guarantee we’ll knock ’em dead in the league, but we have comfortable locker room and a group of kids that love being around each other. That’s been the difference.”
Star of the game: Marcus Mooney could be the hottest hitter in the country. He went 4-for-5 in Tuesday’s win and followed that with a 4-for-4 performance that included two doubles and four RBI against the Wildcats. He’s tied his career high in each of the past two nights. He’s also raised his average from .250 to .351.
Play of the game: Dom Thompson-Williams was almost caught stealing third in a play that would have ended the inning. Instead, he jolted the ball away from third baseman Andrew Pope. That led to a three-run inning and USC never looked back.
Stat of the game: 10. Jonah Bride has been hit by pitch 10 times this season, which leads the country. He is 11 off the single-season record of 21, set by Brandon Walters in 1996.
Midweek starting pitching: It hasn’t come back to hurt them yet, but outside of freshman Adam Hill the Gamecocks have struggled on the mound in midweek games. Colie Bowers made his first career start and didn’t make it out of the third inning when he walked the bases loaded with no outs. Hill is now the Sunday starter.
New leadoff: The leadoff spot has been a revolving door this season for the Gamecocks. Cone put in a solid statement to take that job whenever he’s in the lineup. The junior outfielder from Spring Valley went 2-for-5 against Davidson with a career-high 4 RBIs.
What: South Carolina vs. Arkansas
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Founders Park
Watch: SEC Network Plus (digital), as well as Bases Loaded coverage on SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM or 1320 AM