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Gamecocks tee off on shaky Cougars

The Gamecocks celebrate Tuesday night's grand slam by shortstop Bobby Haney (23).
The Gamecocks celebrate Tuesday night's grand slam by shortstop Bobby Haney (23).

Bombs away.

With a struggling College of Charleston team visiting Carolina Stadium, South Carolina unloaded on the Cougars early and often Tuesday night in a 20-6 victory.

USC (24-12) took advantage of Charleston’s recent pitching woes. The Cougars (21-13) entered the game having surrendered 124 runs in their past eight games, seven of them losses.

“It’s very frustrating. We’re searching for answers,” said first-year Charleston coach Monte Lee, a former USC assistant. “We threw the ball well the first 20 games, but this has snowballed on us. We haven’t found a way out of it yet.”

The Gamecocks, who beat Charleston 14-2 in their first meeting, continued the pounding with 20 runs on 21 hits, including four home runs. Jackie Bradley led the parade with a career-high five hits. Nick Ebert added four more, including his team-leading 13th homer, a three-run shot in the fifth that blew the game open. His five RBIs also give him a team-high 41.

“We were aware of (Charleston’s pitching problems),” Ebert said. “Coach (Ray Tanner) went over that with us before the game. We came out swinging today. We knew they were struggling and we took advantage. Coach told us to be aggressive, and we swung it well, one through nine.”

Freshman left-hander Adam Westmoreland (3-1) picked up the win in relief of fellow freshman lefty Michael Roth, who allowed six runs in 4Ð innings of work. Westmoreland tossed 4ð scoreless innings while allowing the hard-hitting Cougars two singles and a double.

“He threw strikes, no walks in relief. That’s what you’ve got to do,” Tanner said. “Westmoreland was outstanding.”

The Gamecocks remain at home for tonight’s 7 p.m. game against The Citadel (20-14). The Bulldogs won the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season in Charleston, 12-5. Senior right-hander Jay Brown (2-0, 2.86) will start for USC against The Citadel righty TJ Clarkson (2-0, 2.55).

Tanner also made a change in the lineup to get a little more offense, inserting freshman Adam Matthews into the outfield and moving center fielder Whit Merrifield to second base in place of Scott Wingo, who was hitting .175.

Matthews, who was hitting .385 in limited duty entering the game, responded with two hits, including his second homer of the season. Merrifield had three hits and also hit his sixth homer of the season.

Tanner is not sure if the move is going to be a permanent one, but it is something he is pondering.

“It gives us a little more offense. Adam Matthews is a guy who’s electric. He’s got tremendous ability,” Tanner said.

The only down note for USC came when Justin Dalles was hit with a pitch in the first inning and had to leave the game. Tanner is not sure if he will be back tonight.

The coach also could commiserate with his former assistant. Asked what he told Lee, Tanner said, “Been there, done that. You’ve got to hang in there.”

Lee is trying to stay positive with his pitchers in spite of the difficulties.

“It’s deflating when you give up so many runs early in a ballgame,” Lee said. “When you make mistakes to good hitters, they’re going to hit you.”

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