Matt Connolly

Clarke Schmidt suffers loss but saves the USC bullpen

South Carolina starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt
South Carolina starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt Special to The State

Clarke Schmidt suffered his first loss of the season Thursday night at Vanderbilt, but pitching well from the second inning on and finishing off the game has the South Carolina pitching staff in good shape for the rest of the weekend.

Schmidt (6-1) allowed four runs on three hits and a walk in the first inning but only five hits and two runs over the next seven. USC did not have to use anyone in the bullpen as the sophomore went the distance, striking out nine while throwing 107 pitches.

“Clarke battled his tail off,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “After down 4-0, for him to finish the game for us really helps us out for the rest of the weekend as far as our bullpen. ... Clarke gave us a big shot in the arm. Hopefully that’ll pay dividends later in the weekend.”

Schmidt pitching the entire game was especially beneficial for USC coming off a 13-inning contest with College of Charleston on Tuesday night.

The Gamecocks threw nine different pitchers against the Cougars, including their top two bullpen arms in closer Josh Reagan and setup man Tyler Johnson.

“I knew I wanted to save the bullpen, especially on a (Thursday),” Schmidt said. “We’ve got to keep that bullpen (fresh) for the rest of the series because we’re going to need it. I knew I had to go out there and throw as long as I could and keep the team in it as much as I could.”

The Gamecocks battled back to cut the deficit to three runs twice and had the tying run in the on-deck circle a couple of times but were unable to get the big hit they needed.

Still, Schmidt battled and gave USC a chance to win the game.

“He was very efficient and he threw strikes,” Holbrook said. “You have to change speeds against those guys and you have to pitch in. After the first inning he did that great. ... He was extremely impressive. I hate that an outing like that didn’t result in a win for us, but maybe that outing will help put us in a better position to win a game over the course of the weekend.”

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