Skylar Meade was impressed with Adam Hill when he watched him on television last year. Watching it in person Friday night was even better.
“He was, obviously, electric,” said Meade, South Carolina’s first-year pitching coach, who had the same role at Michigan State the past three seasons.
Hill left Friday night’s game trailing but was the catalyst for the Gamecocks 3-2 win over archrival and No. 14 Clemson in front of 8,242 fans in Founders Park. He pitched seven innings, striking out 14, tying his own, week-old Founders Park record in that category.
“He threw 110 pitches and only threw one bad one (a sixth-inning changeup that Seth Beer launched for a two-run home run),” Meade said. “You take away one pitch and that was about as good an outing as I’ve ever seen a guy have. It was real Friday night stuff.”
Meade called the pitches from the dugout, which is not a very taxing job when Hill has the stuff he had Friday night.
“You could tell the fastball was good warming up,” Meade said. “I will tell you once he went through that second inning, we were like, ‘All right, we’ve got something here.’ It was the swings the guys were taking off him. They just weren’t seeing the ball well, which is a credit to him and the deception he had. Once he got through that second inning, you could tell he had elite stuff and you were just hoping he would maintain. He did that for the most part through all seven innings.”
Clemson didn’t get a base runner until the fifth inning and that came thanks to a Madison Stokes error. Meade made a quick mound visit (all of his mound visits are quick) just to take his starter’s temperature.
“This atmosphere was so crazy, you want to make sure that heart rate stays calm and in line,” Meade said. “Sometimes with a mound visit, sometimes I think that can slow them down a little bit and get them back to executing their pitches.”
Hill struck out the next batter. It’s exactly the Hill Meade thought he could get when he first worked with him in person after being hired by head coach Mark Kingston.
“My impression after first seeing him (in person), I thought his off speed was really improving. I know he had thrown just a high amount of fastballs and he has a great fastball, but I thought he’s got more pitcher-ish abilities than just being a high-octane, up-in-the-zone guy, and I think he’s really been able to maximize that in the last couple of weeks,” Meade said.
The only reason Hill left the game is he was at 110 pitches. It’s the same reason he was pulled last Friday, when he had a 14-strikeout, no-hitter going through seven innings.
“It’s the third week of the year,” Meade said. “It’s a long season. He’s got a big year ahead and a long career. We’re not going to jeopardize that just because you’ve got a Friday night game with Clemson as appealing as it is the way he’s throwing.”
The Gamecocks will need this Hill for lots more Friday nights if they’re going to get where they hope to in Kingston’s and Meade’s first season.