South Carolina’s offense got healthy in a hurry Saturday night.
After scoring two runs in each of their previous three games, the Gamecocks busted out the bats in an 11-5 victory over Stetson to move into the championship round of the NCAA Columbia Regional.
Senior catcher Robert Beary, who collected a pair of hits, highlighted the 12-hit attack with a third-inning grand slam. Evan Marzilli, Scott Wingo and Christian Walker had two hits each, while Steven Neff added a solo home run. The outburst came after the Gamecocks had a season-low four hits in Friday night’s 2-1 win over Georgia Southern.
USC, which had three doubles to go with the pair of homers, used a six-run third inning and a four-run fourth to put the game away early.
“We’re a pretty good hitting team,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “I know at times that we don’t show it. We’ve been hovering around .300 all year, which is pretty good this day and age in college baseball.
“We had some great at-bats in the third and fourth innings. We took balls the other way, we hit some balls hard and we needed everything we got.”
USC (47-14), the No. 4 national seed and top seed in the regional, advances to today’s 7 p.m. game against the winner of the 1 p.m. elimination game between Stetson (42-19) and N.C. State (35-26). The Wolfpack knocked out Georgia Southern (36-26) in Saturday afternoon’s game.
If the Gamecocks win, they claim the regional title and will play the winner of the Clemson Regional at Carolina Stadium next weekend. If they lose, the same teams will play at 7 p.m. Monday. Freshman right-hander Forrest Koumas (6-1, 3.13 ERA) will start tonight for the Gamecocks.
“It was a great win for us,” Tanner said. “We’re happy to be where we are.”
The Gamecocks have won eight consecutive postseason games, dating to their six-game winning streak in the 2010 College World Series. They also have won 16 consecutive home postseason games dating to the 2002 Super Regional against Miami.
Beary’s breakout came as no surprise to Tanner. Beary has played well at catcher and in the outfield during USC’s injury-plagued season. He raised his average to .292 to go with three homers and 32 RBIs.
“He’s been outstanding. He’s been special for us the entire year and made a heck of a contribution,” Tanner said.
Sophomore right-hander Colby Holmes (7-3) picked up the first postseason win of his career by throwing 62/3 solid innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits — including a solo homer to Trey Blackman in the second inning and a three-run shot to Mitchel Brennan in the seventh — and walked one in his 107-pitch stint.
He appreciated the run support.
“It took a lot of pressure off me. The guys swung the bats great,” Holmes said. “That six-run and four-run spot just gave me more confidence to go out there and battle. To know that we had the lead, (I could) just throw my pitches and let them hit it.”
The Gamecocks blew open the game in the third inning with six runs off Stetson starter Will Dorsey (7-6). Brady Thomas grounded into a double play that scored a run, and Dorsey walked in a run before Beary’s blast followed three consecutive walks.
It was Beary’s first home run since March 23 and gave USC a 6-1 lead.
“All of a sudden, Will lost the strike zone and lost command,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “And when he loses command of his off-speed pitches, it can go bad. We got 2-0 on Beary and finally had to throw him a fastball, and he made us pay for it.”
Beary was hoping to get a fastball after watching Dorsey fail to locate his off-speed pitches.
“That’s a pitch you want to look for. I got it and put a good swing on it,” he said.
USC tacked on four runs in the fourth to lead 10-1. Walker lined an RBI single, Jake Williams drilled a two-run double and Peter Mooney added a sacrifice fly.
“It’s very difficult to come back from a deficit like that against a club like South Carolina and the bullpen they have,” Dunn said.
Neff’s homer — his fifth of the season — closed out USC’s scoring in the fifth.
“Wins like this always feel good, and it helps our team when we come out and hit because we are a hitting team,” Beary said. “Sometimes we don’t show it, but that’s baseball. Being able to capitalize and put some more runs on the board gives us more confidence as hitters as a whole. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Ray Tanner postgame
Robert Beary, Colby Holmes, Evan Marzilli postgame