South Carolina had seven different pitchers perform well during big moments throughout the regular season. So even after the Gamecocks dropped their opener in the Columbia Regional with ace Clarke Schmidt on the mound, there was no panic.
USC head coach Chad Holbrook and pitching coach Jerry Meyers put together a plan for each game that was executed nearly flawlessly as the Gamecocks bounced back from the loser’s bracket to advance to a super regional.
USC allowed an average of 2.5 runs per game in its four wins, getting strong performances from just about everyone despite some pitchers being used in uncharacteristic roles.
“We’ve had depth all year. We displayed it this weekend,” USC reliever Josh Reagan said. “It doesn’t matter who we throw out there.”
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The junior made the most appearances with three, including a superb outing against Duke, allowing one run in 4 2/3 innings to keep the Gamecocks in the game after starter Braden Webb was pulled in the fourth inning because of command issues.
Reagan escaped a bases loaded, no outs jam in the fourth without allowing a run, and USC went on to earn a 4-2 win.
USC got a strong performance from Adam Hill on Sunday against Rhode Island as the freshman allowed two runs in seven innings and the Gamecocks offense exploded in a 23-2 win.
In the nightcap against UNCW, one of the best offensive teams in the country, closer Tyler Johnson made his first start and allowed only a solo homer while pitching a complete game.
USC earned another win over the Seahawks Tuesday night with midweek starter Taylor Widener getting the nod, Reagan pitching in relief and weekend starters Schmidt and Webb coming in to pitch the final two innings.
In the super regional you play a maximum of three games, and at the College World Series you get time off, but in the regional round you have to play five games to advance if you lose your opener, as USC did.
“That’s as tough a situation as far as depth goes that you can have. The next round and the one after that you get recovery time,” USC pitching coach Jerry Meyers said. “It’s very difficult. Our guys were up to the challenge.”
Johnson was named the Regional Most Outstanding Player, going 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 innings of work while striking out 13.
Widener also had a great showing, making two appearances with one start and allowing only one run in 7 1/3 innings.
Widener kept UNCW hitters off balance in the winner-take-all game Tuesday, earning the start and allowing one run in 4 innings with a fastball in the mid 90s and a sharp slider.
“Taylor was special… His velocity was great. He’s learned how to pitch this year instead of just throw,” Holbrook said. “It worked out perfect because the kids threw well.”
Adam Hill and Braden Webb were named to the 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-America team from Collegiate Baseball.
Webb (10-5) is the first Gamecock to reach 10 wins since Michael Roth went 14-3 in the 2011 season. Hill is 7-0 with a 3.53 ERA.