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Big bats, arm spur USC to win

Christian Walker and Jeffery Jones kept the hits coming for the USC baseball team, and pitcher Sam Dyson kept them from coming in the first real test of his right elbow since off-season surgery.

The result was a 13-3 drubbing of Duquesne on Saturday at Carolina Stadium.

Dyson threw 3 2/3 hitless innings on 48 pitches, retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced. He walked one and struck out six while repeatedly flashing his mid-90s fastball. Because he was scheduled to throw no more than 50 pitches, he came out of the game with two outs in the fourth inning. The predetermined pitching split meant he qualified for the win despite not going five innings.

He admitted to being pain-free for the most part, although it takes him a little longer to get loosened up. He was pleased with his initial performance.

"I felt fine," he said. "I got better as the game went along."

Dyson, who improved to 18-4 in his USC career, wasn't concerned about how hard he was throwing.

"I wasn't trying to judge velocity. I was trying to get people out," he said.

USC coach Ray Tanner also liked what he saw in Dyson's free-and-easy manner on the mound.

"I was very encouraged by Sam Dyson's start," Tanner said. "He was very productive. He had all his pitches going. ... That's exactly what we were hoping for."

Tanner and Dyson expect the pitcher to be bumped up to a 65-pitch limit in next weekend's start against No. 18 East Carolina, which will serve as a far more serious test for the Gamecocks.

"Hopefully, I'll be full-bore by the SEC (start in mid-March)," Dyson said.

Dyson, who returned for his redshirt junior season despite being drafted by the Oakland A's, got all the support he would need from Walker, the slugging freshman third baseman, and Jones, the senior whose fast start comes in stark contrast to his struggles last season.

Walker piled up four more hits and five RBIs, including his second homer, a solo blast to left-center, an RBI double, and a two-run single. Jones, who served as the designated hitter, drilled his third home run of the season, a solo shot to center field, smacked a two-run double, and added a sacrifice fly to up his RBI total to nine.

"Those guys have put together some at-bats," said Tanner. "In two days, those guys have had pretty good approaches and helped us win."

Tanner said Nick Ebert would start at first base when he comes off academic suspension. If Jones is still hitting well, he would be the DH.

Jones said he has learned from last season's struggle, when he hit .228 with one homer.

"Just having a year's experience has helped me," he said. "I'm just trying to stay relaxed and stay within myself.

Walker has yet to struggle with college pitching. He has six hits in 10 at-bats.

"I expected to hit the ball hard, and that's what I'm still going for," said Walker, whose family traveled from his home in Pennsylvania to watch his collegiate debut.

So far, he has found a new home in Carolina Stadium.

"I love swinging here. It's a great hitters' park," he said.

Robert Beary, a junior college transfer who has played left field and first base in the two games, picked up three singles in USC's 15-hit attack.

The teams complete the three-game series at 1:30 p.m. today. With another win, USC, which leads the series 21-0, could finish unbeaten in its history against Duquesne, which is dropping its baseball program after the season. Freshman left-hander Tyler Webb will start on the mound for the Gamecocks.

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