South Carolina passed its first road test of the season Tuesday night, topping The Citadel 6-3 at Riley Park.
Freshman right-hander Adam Hill was once again fantastic, striking out eight batters in five innings of work to earn the win. The Anderson native is 2-0 on the year and has yet to allow a run. Hill has 19 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched.
“I’m just doing what the coaches tell me and putting pitches where they need to be,” Hill said. “I’m just doing what I do and throwing my game. I guess that’s what’s allowed me to be successful.”
The Gamecocks (9-0) jumped out to a 5-0 lead, scoring four in the third inning as Alex Destino, Chris Cullen, DC Arendas and Marcus Mooney recorded RBIs. USC added a run in the fifth on an RBI double to left by Danny Blair before things got dicey.
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Sophomore Tyler Johnson came on in relief in the sixth and allowed three batters to reach before The Citadel’s Drew Ellis doubled off the wall in left field to clear the bases and cut the lead to 5-3. Brandon Murray replaced Johnson and got out of the inning without allowing any further damage.
Carolina added an insurance run in the seventh inning as Jonah Bride singled to score Dom Thompson-Williams.
USC pounded out 15 hits on the night, led by Thompson-Williams, who went 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Sophomore John Jones continued his hot start, going 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and a hit by pitch. Destino, Cullen and Blair also finished with two hits.
“We’ve swung it pretty good, and we got our share of hits tonight. I thought we left a lot of guys out there,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “I’ve got some big, strong, physical guys, and I’ve got some guys with some confidence right now.”
Murray retired all eight batters he faced in relief, while Josh Reagan worked a perfect ninth inning to earn his third save.
“Brandon was awesome and Reagan was terrific in the ninth inning,” Holbrook said. “I love giving the ball to (Reagan) just because he’s so confident in himself and he can throw three pitches in there any pitch, any count. That’s a luxury to have late in the game.”
Star of the game: Adam Hill: The freshman has been overpowering early on in his South Carolina career. In two starts he is 2-0 with 19 strikeouts over 11 innings. The TL Hanna product has allowed only five hits and two walks.
Play of the game: The Citadel had momentum, confidence and a runner on second when Brandon Murray stepped on the mound with one out in the sixth inning. Four straight Bulldogs had reached and USC was clinging to a 5-3 lead before Murray got Steven Hansen to strike out looking.
Stat of the game: 15: The Gamecocks stayed hot at the plate, pounding out 15 hits. USC has at least 14 hits in four of its past five games.
Hill is making a case for a weekend rotation spot: He has been dominant so far this season. While USC has pitched well on the weekend, if Hill continues at this pace he may get a look on Saturday or Sunday.
Base-running blunders need to be corrected: USC had two upperclassmen get picked off as Dom Thompson-Williams was picked off second in the first inning and Marcus Mooney was picked off first in the seventh. Those kind of mistakes could be game-changers this weekend against Clemson.
Cullen should remain in the lineup with Jones: USC’s best lineup appears to be with Chris Cullen and John Jones both in it. While both players are traditionally catchers, with the way he is swinging the bat, Cullen deserves a chance to DH when he gets an off day from behind the plate.
What: South Carolina vs. Clemson Game 1
When: 7 p.m. Friday, March 4
Where: Founders Park
Probable pitchers: USC – Clarke Schmidt (So. RHP); Clemson – Charlie Barnes (So. LHP)
Watch: SEC Network Plus (Digital)
Radio: 107.5 FM in the Columbia area