Matt Connolly

Gamecocks pitching staff dominant against a potent UNCG offense

South Carolina’s pitching staff was touted as one of the best in the nation entering 2017, and the Gamecocks certainly looked the part the first weekend of the season.

USC’s opponent, UNC-Greensboro, led the nation in batting average at .346 and slugging percentage at .538 last season.

But the Spartans couldn’t do anything offensively against Carolina, managing one run in each of the three games.

UNCG’s batting average against South Carolina was .115 and the Gamecocks’ pitching staff allowed one earned run all weekend when ace Clarke Schmidt gave up a solo home run on Opening Day.

Carolina’s team ERA was 0.33 and USC pitchers struck out 27 batters over the course of the three games.

“Everybody knows how good South Carolina is. It’s no secret. They’re one of the best three-four teams in the country,” UNCG coach Link Jarrett said. “Did it surprise me that they pitched that well? No. Would I have liked to do more offensively? Absolutely.”

Schmidt got the Gamecocks off to a good start, allowing three hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out three batters and walked two.

Crowe followed by throwing five scoreless innings while allowing three hits with seven strikeouts and one walk.

Sunday starter Adam Hill, who suffered a bad-luck loss, was perhaps the most impressive of the trio. The sophomore pitched seven strong innings and held UNCG to one hit. He struck out seven batters with two walks and retired the final 15 batters he faced.

All three pitchers threw in the low-to-mid 90s with Crowe’s fastball consistently sitting at 96 miles per hour.

“You look at Schmidt, obviously a Friday-night guy with a ton of success. You look at Crowe, essentially he’s a Friday-night guy… You know what you’re getting there,” Jarrett said. “Obviously the arm strength and fastball command and life of their starting pitchers is remarkable. Those are very talented guys that they trot out there.”

South Carolina’s bullpen combined to pitch 8 1/3 innings while allowing three hits with only an unearned run given up.

Reed Scott pitched four innings with three strikeouts and surrendered two hits. Colie Bowers struck out four batters and allowed one hit in 2 1/3 innings. And Josh Reagan struck out three in two innings without allowing a hit.

The Gamecocks did not use preseason All-American closer Tyler Johnson.

“You look at the bullpen experience and the way they use their secondary pitches, they really pitch to the strength of their pitchers, and they can exploit your hitters’ weaknesses as well. They do a good job of using their pitchers’ strengths, and their command of their secondary pitches out of the bullpen was outstanding,” Jarrett said. “I would have liked to do more offensively, but at the end of the day when you’re facing that level of starting pitching, that kind of bullpen experience, their whole bullpen is back and essentially in the same roles they were in last year… I think offensively we’ll be OK.”