South Carolina finished its home schedule on a high note, getting a 1-0 walk-off win over USC Upstate at Founders Park on Tuesday.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, freshman second baseman Jonah Beamon laced a sharp grounder that hit off the shortstop’s glove and into left field, allowing a pinch runner for freshman catcher Wes Clarke, who led off the inning with a double off the wall in deep left-center field, to race home ahead of the throw.
“I thought it was gonna get to the outfield,” Beamon said. “I saw it tip off his glove there and I was pumped when I saw that.”
Just the third run driven in of Beamon’s career capped a pitchers’ duel that seemed fated for extra innings as both teams struggled to generate any offense.
Prior to the game-winning run, the Gamecocks (27-25) had their best chance of the night in the second inning as Clarke and freshman right fielder Brady Allen connected on a double and single, respectively, to put runners on the corners with one out, but a double play ended the threat.
Beyond that, USC Upstate junior starter Trey Van Der Weide twirled a gem, striking out five, walking three and allowing five hits through the first eight innings. At 100 pitches, he returned for the ninth, however, and was saddled with the loss.
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, used four different pitchers as coach Mark Kingston attempted to keep his heavily-injured staff as fresh as possible ahead of the team’s final series of the regular season against Mississippi State.
Sophomore Parker Coyne, making his first career start, put together arguably his best outing for Carolina. He went a career-high five innings, giving up just three hits, walking none and tying a career best with six strikeouts.
“He only threw 67 pitches too, that’s maybe even better than the five innings he gave us,” Kingston said. “He only threw 67 pitches, which means he’ll be available for Game 3 (against Mississippi State this weekend) if we need him. And then everybody else threw a number that will make them available. So to get a win and still have everyone available for this weekend was exactly what we were looking for.”
In relief of Coyne, junior Sawyer Bridges and freshman Wesley Sweatt each threw a perfect inning. Senior Gage Hinson then pitched a scoreless eighth inning before running into trouble in the ninth, loading the bases with one out off a single, intentional walk and hit batsman.
“At that point, (pitching coach Skylar Meade) and I were looking at each other like, ‘Do we want to use (freshman Brett Kerry) here, do we want to try to get out of this jam?’ And we looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s let Gage try to get out of it,’” Kingston said.
Get out of it he did, with a pair of strikeouts to keep the Spartans off the board and secure the team’s first shutout since March 30.
“I just really had to focus in on the task at hand. You got some guys that stepped up and started for us like Parker, everyone’s been throwing up zeros all game, I just had to buckle down and do the best I could,” Hinson said.
Next: South Carolina closes its regular season with a series at No. 5 Mississippi State, starting Thursday at 7:30 p.m.