College baseball players dream about ending every season at the College World Series.
But as he took the mound in front of a sellout crowd in a sparkling new park on a cloudless afternoon, South Carolina sophomore Sam Dyson felt like he was beginning the season at the CWS.
“It was like we were in Omaha because there were so many people here,” Dyson said. “It’s something we’ve never experienced before.”
USC fans used to pack into Sarge Frye Field for big series, but never quite like this. A standing-room-only crowd of 8,153 — the largest ever for a Gamecocks’ home game — came out to experience the pageantry of opening day at the $35.6 million Carolina Stadium.
The Gamecocks treated them to a 13-0 victory against Duquesne on Saturday that featured something for everyone: strong pitching, the small-ball manufacturing of runs and some not-so small ball on home runs by DeAngelo Mack and Justin Dalles.
As much as he liked the opening-day rout, it was the ceremonial first pitches delivered by former Gamecocks coaches Bobby Richardson and June Raines and USC president Harris Pastides that tugged on current coach Ray Tanner’s heartstrings.
“It was tough. It was emotional,” Tanner said. “I was just sort of soaking it all in.”
Dyson and two relievers combined on a one-hitter as USC improved to 17-0 against Duquesne, which was the opening-day choice after talks with Texas about christening the stadium stalled.
Dyson, who went 8-0 last season to earn Freshman All-America honors, gave up one hit in five innings — a fourth-inning double by Mike Carroll that put runners on second and third with one out.
But Dyson (1-0) found some extra zip on his fastball to strike out the next two hitters and end the Dukes’ only threat of the game. Dyson’s final pitch of the inning registered at 98 miles an hour on the stadium’s scoreboard.
And though Tanner questioned the accuracy of the radar gun readings, it was fast enough.
“I was trying to get it up there,” Dyson said. “My fastball’s obviously my best pitch. I tried to get my velocity up there and get them out.”
Said Tanner: “It was getting ready to be a game and he punched a guy out and got the next guy.”
Dyson struck out six and walked two before giving way to Adam Westmoreland, who followed with three scoreless innings in his debut. Walk-on Jordan Propst finished the game with two strikeouts in the ninth.
Things did not go as well for Duquesne starter Gary Pierpont, who labored through a 55-pitch first inning in which he walked four batters and gave up three runs.
The Gamecocks were patient with Pierpont (0-1), who issued eight walks in 49ð innings last season. But the right-hander walked six in the first two innings Saturday, including a pair of bases-loaded passes that helped USC jump out to a 4-0 lead.
After losing most of their power producers from last year’s team, Tanner wants USC to create runs this season. The Gamecocks drew 12 walks Saturday, while Whit Merrifield stole two bases and slapped a single on a hit-and-run.
But USC also showed some pop: Mack’s 2-run homer hit 30 feet up the batter’s eye in straightaway center field. Even with the wind blowing out to center, Mack got all of it.
“D-Mack crunched his pretty good,” Tanner said. “I haven’t seen balls go up the batter’s eye in batting practice.”
Merrifield, who scored the first run in stadium history, was just glad to be part of the first game at the new stadium.
“It was awesome. I can’t describe it. It all happened so fast,” Merrifield said. “It’s something I’ll never forget, though. It was incredible.”
Almost like Omaha.
|Torre 2b||4||0||0||0||Bradley cf||6||3||2||0|
|Manley 3b||3||0||0||0||Merrifield cf||2||2||2||0|
|Deverux dh||2||0||0||0||Matthews cf||0||0||0||0|
|Zeroski ss||1||0||0||0||Jones 1b||3||0||1||1|
|Carroll c||4||0||1||0||Ebert 3b||1||0||0||0|
|Tracy 1b||2||0||0||0||Bangs dh||2||2||1||3|
|Heck ss/cf||3||0||0||0||Mack lf||2||3||1||3|
|Happ lf||3||0||0||0||Crisp 3b||4||0||1||0|
|Fallecker rf||3||0||0||0||Rihn 2b||1||1||1||1|
|Brnrdo cf/p||0||0||0||0||Dalles c||2||1||1||1|
|Pierpont p||0||0||0||0||Thomas c||1||0||0||0|
|Anderson p||0||0||0||0||Haney ss||4||0||0||1|
|Pierpont L, 0-1||3||3||4||3||6||3|
|Dyson W, 1-0||5||1||0||0||2||6|