Starting opportunities don’t knock on the door often for Patrick Sullivan, but when they do, the South Carolina right-hander answers.
Sullivan threw six strong innings in his second start of the season to lead the fourth-ranked Gamecocks past Charleston Southern 11-1 Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium.
“Coach (Jerry) Meyers does a great job with us making sure we’re prepared whenever we might go in, whether it’s spot-starting or coming out of the bullpen to face a situational righty,” Sullivan said. “You’ve just got to be ready, and I’ve been trying to stay prepared.”
His preparation paid; he gave up one run on six hits and one walk while striking out six, which tied his career high. Sullivan (2-0) has allowed 12 hits in 181/3 innings with 18 strikeouts. He has a 1.47 ERA in seven appearances
“It was definitely the best command I’ve had all season,” he said. “One thing I was trying to do was limit the walks. I was able to get my fastball in, and (it was) probably the best curveball I had all season.”
USC coach Ray Tanner considered starting Sullivan on Tuesday against Presbyterian before the banged-up Steven Neff convinced the coach he felt good enough to throw. Tanner had no questions about turning it over to Sullivan Wednesday night.
“Patrick Sullivan stepped up and gave us a quality outing. He ate up six innings, did a nice job for us and put us in a position to win the game,” Tanner said. “ He’s a tireless worker. He has continued to get better. With more opportunities, he’s going to show us what he can do.”
A redshirt sophomore who played at A.C. Flora High, the 6-foot-3 Sullivan defeated USC Upstate on April 5 with a strong five-inning outing in his other start. He also earned a save with three solid innings against the College of Charleston on March 22.
He ran into trouble in the fourth inning Wednesday when the Buccaneers (25-24) loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles. But Sullivan recovered to record the next three outs on two strikeouts and a groundout.
“That was impressive. His poise was very, very good,” Tanner said. “As a coach, when you’re sitting over on the side and base runners are everywhere, that’s not a good feeling. But when your pitcher shows you he has poise and composure, you stay with him. You feel like he’s mature enough to handle the situation.”
The Gamecocks provided plenty of support for Sullivan by playing error-free baseball and pounding out 11 hits. Senior designated hitter Brady Thomas led the way with three hits and two RBIs, while junior shortstop Peter Mooney picked up a career-high three RBIs on a pair of doubles. Adrian Morales added a pair of hits, and Christian Walker’s two-run single in the fifth inning increased his team-high RBI total to 50.
“It was huge. Our offense has been great all year,” Sullivan said. “When you have that defense and offense behind you, it makes you feel a lot more comfortable.”
USC (39-10), which scored double-digit runs for the ninth time this season, improve its midweek record to 11-2. Tanner is pleased with how his team bounced back from its first series loss, on the road against Mississippi.
“You want to win and feel good about your team going into the weekend,” Tanner said. “Your players want to feel good about themselves. We were able to win these two games after exams got out, and now it’s just baseball.”
Neff was going to start in left field, but he hurt his thumb in pregame batting practice trying to catch a liner and was scratched in favor of DeSean Anderson.
The Gamecocks play Arkansas in a three-game SEC series at Carolina Stadium this weekend.