MOUNT PLEASANT — This couldn’t have been what Monte Lee had in mind for his reunion with South Carolina. But, after dropping consecutive SEC series, it was exactly what the Gamecocks needed.
The Gamecocks struck for eight runs in the second inning — six of them coming with two outs — and cruised to a 14-2 victory against the College of Charleston before 1,767 fans at briskly cool Patriots Point Stadium.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” USC senior third baseman Andrew Crisp said of pounding Lee, who took over the Charleston program in July after six seasons as a South Carolina assistant. “You root for him because you’d been around him so long. But, in the end, you got a win.”
Charleston came in winners of 14 of its past 15 games. The Cougars (17-4) had climbed to No. 6 in the most recent RPI ratings.
Meanwhile, South Carolina (15-6) had dropped back-to-back games to LSU to fall to 2-4 in SEC play.
All of that combined made this midweek game more transcendent than most. The score just enhanced that feeling
“It was very surprising for us, to get an eight spot in the second,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said.
And then there’s the fact that Lee was across the diamond from Tanner.
“I don’t really like playing against them because I know how good they are,” Tanner said. “I’m really proud of the job they’re doing.”
Cougars starter Nick Osterman (1-1) immediately fell behind batters, something that was an omen of what was to come during the eight-run second.
Nick Ebert’s skyrocket of a two-run homer lifted into the jet stream to left-center was the highlight of an inning that saw 13 Gamecocks come to the plate.
Three of those batters were hit by Charleston pitches. USC second baseman Casey Rihn was hit twice in the second. Andrew Crisp scored twice in the inning.
Catcher Kyle Enders and Crisp hit back-to-back homers — both into that stiff breeze to left — in the fourth to make it 10-0.
South Carolina continued from there, jumping out to a 14-0 lead before the Cougars finally got on the board in the fifth inning with an RBI single by right fielder Clay McCord.
Blake Cooper got the win for USC, going 5ð innings and limiting Charleston to a run on five hits (four singles and a double).
Cooper (3-2) will start Sunday at Kentucky, Tanner said. The Gamecocks play Georgia Southern tonight in Columbia.
The Cougars will host Furman for a weekend series beginning Friday.
Lee spent 20 minutes in right field with his team after the loss. His voice was audible from the home dugout.
“The biggest thing I’m upset about is how we approached the game,” Lee said, adding that his team emerged nervous. “It didn’t give us a chance to win. ... It was going to be a long night from the second inning.”
It’s the second straight year that Charleston wanted to compete with South Carolina in its home park, but failed abjectly by falling in an early hole.
James Darnell hit three homers a year ago in a 13-1 USC victory. Even with Lee in the other dugout, it didn’t make a difference. Not this time, anyway.
“They’ll bounce back,” Tanner said. “They just didn’t play well.”
The Cougars visit the Gamecocks and their new Carolina Stadium on April 14.