The competition went up a notch, but South Carolina’s strong offensive productivity stayed the same.
USC opened SEC play with a 10-6 win over Arkansas on Friday night at Founders Park, scoring five runs in the first and three in the second before hanging on for the victory.
Carolina (18-2, 1-0 SEC) had nine hits in the first two innings and 12 total off Arkansas ace Dominic Taccolini. Taccolini only had allowed 12 hits in 25 innings all year before being roughed up by the Gamecocks.
“Against a guy that good and a guy with that much movement on his fastball, before he settled in we got some good swings on him,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “He’s a very good pitcher. ... We just came out of the gates really, really hot, and we were excited about playing.”
USC ace Clarke Schmidt continued his strong start to the season, striking out a career-high 11 in the win.
He exited the game with Carolina leading 9-2 after allowing two singles to open the eighth. The runners later scored.
Schmidt (5-0) pitched seven innings, allowing nine hits and four runs with 11 strikeouts and one walk.
“Clarke has been very, very consistent, and he got us off to a good start,” Holbrook said. “When you strike Arkansas out 11 times and only walk them once, he was terrific… He’s a legit Friday night guy in this league, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Carolina scored 27 combined runs in its two games leading up to Friday night’s SEC opener and picked up where it left off early on.
Alex Destino, Dom Thompson-Williams, Chris Cullen and DC Arendas led the way for the Gamecocks in the first two innings.
Destino singled to score two in the first, Cullen added a sacrifice fly and Arendas doubled to score two more to push the lead to 5-0 after one.
In the second, Thompson-Williams tripled to the gap in right-center and Cullen doubled to left-center to score him.
Arendas added a solo home run to left field in the seventh.
The Razorbacks (15-4, 0-1) scored four runs in the eighth but Carolina added an insurance run on an RBI single by John Jones.
USC finished with 16 hits, led by Destino, Jones and LT Tolbert, who each had three. Gene Cone, Thompson-Williams and Arendas added two hits each.
“We obviously swung the bats very, very well,” Holbrook said. “You get 16 hits and double digit runs and double digit hits you like your chances to win.”
Star of the game: Destino. The sophomore continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. He also made a nice diving catch in left field.
Play of the game: Carolina led 2-0 with the bases loaded and no outs in the first but had only added one more run when Arendas came to bat with two outs. His double off right fielder Eric Cole’s glove on a full count scored two more and kept USC from squandering a big opportunity.
Stat of the game: 16. The Gamecocks pounded out 16 hits against Arkansas. USC has 51 hits over the past three games.
Destino making progress in left: Holbrook has admitted Destino is a work in progress in left field, but he looked pretty good Friday night. He made an impressive diving catch in the sixth inning on a ball that looked like trouble.
Offense the hottest it has been all year: Carolina has scored at least 10 runs three straight games after going 10 straight games without scoring in double digits.
Schmidt was better than numbers indicate: His ERA jumped up from 0.32 to 1.27 but it was mostly because of bad luck. The sophomore was dominant at times, striking out 11. Two of the four runs he allowed came after he left the game.
What: South Carolina vs. Arkansas, Game 2
When: 4 p.m. Saturday, March 19
Where: Founders Park
Probable pitchers: USC – Braden Webb (Fr. RHP); Arkansas - TBA
Watch: SEC Network Plus (Digital)
Radio: 107.5 FM in the Columbia area