Carlos Cortes tied a single-game SEC Tournament record with both two homers and six RBIs and junior right-hander Wil Crowe tied a season-high with nine strikeouts in six innings of work as South Carolina defeated Missouri 10-2 in an elimination game at the 2017 SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks are 34-24 on the year with Missouri 36-23 for the season.
Cortes has been phenomenal in the SEC Tournament and added to his great week with a pair of three-run homers. All three hits at the tournament are homers for Cortes and he has driven in eight to go with five runs scored. He has also walked eight times. His on-base percentage at the SEC Tournament is .733 with a 1.714 slugging percentage. He helped lead a Gamecock hitting attack that finished with 14 hits in the contest as well as a season-high four homers. Alex Destino went 3-for-4 with a homer with Jonah Bride adding a solo shot as well. Danny Blair tied a career-high in hits going 3-for-4 and both Justin Row and Cortes finished with two hits apiece.
Crowe earned the win and is now 6-5 on the year. He allowed one run on four hits in six innings with three walks. Missouri starter Cole Bartlett suffered the loss and is now 6-3 on the year. He allowed six runs, five earned, on eight hits in 4.2 innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
Carolina broke ahead 2-0 in the top of the second inning. Destino got things started with a solo homer to right field to lead off the frame. Destino launched a 3-2 pitch for his 10th homer of the season. Carolina would then take advantage of a Missouri miscue to score its second run of the inning. TJ Hopkins singled with one out and advanced to third on a fielding error by Missouri shortstop Chris Cornelius. He would score on Blair’s RBI infield single.
Bride extended the Carolina lead to 3-0 in the top of the fourth with a solo homer to left field, his fifth of the season. The Tigers would get a run back in the bottom half of the fourth on a RBI double off the bat of Alex Samples.
With Carolina leading 3-1 entering the fifth inning, Cortes hit the first of his two three-run homers to give Carolina a five-run advantage. Blair singled to center field and Row knocked a one-out base hit through the left side to set the stage for Cortes, who launched a 1-0 pitch over the right field wall and completely out of the Hoover Met Stadium putting the Gamecocks ahead 6-1.
Cortes’ second three-run homer of the afternoon would highlight a four-run sixth inning that increased the lead to nine runs. Hunter Taylor led off the inning with a single to left field and Blair bunted for a base hit to give the Gamecocks a pair of runners with no outs. After a sacrifice bunt from LT Tolbert moved both runners into scoring position, Row knocked a RBI single into left field to score Taylor. That brought Cortes to the plate and he knocked the first pitch that he saw over the right-centerfield wall giving Carolina a 10-1 lead. A solo homer by Missouri in the ninth inning by Nelson Mompierre closed out the scoring.
Cortes’ first three-run homer extended Carolina’s lead to five runs and broke open a two-run game in the top of the fifth inning.
South Carolina hit a season-high four homers that accounted for eight of the 10 runs on the afternoon. Carolina’s four homers are the most by the Gamecocks in a game since at Texas A&M, May 9, 2015. South Carolina is the eighth team to hit four home runs in one game in SEC Tournament history.
Carlos Cortes’ two-homer game tied a single-game SEC Tournament record and it is the first time since 2008 that a Gamecock player has hit two homers in a game in the SEC Tournament. Phil Disher hit two homers in 2008 vs. Vanderbilt. It is the first time any SEC player has driven in six runs at the SEC Tournament since 2008. His six RBIs were the most by a Gamecock player since Alex Destino tallied seven RBIs on February 27, 2016 vs. Penn State.
Cortes’ two-homer game is the second time this season he has hit two homers in a game. He also hit two homers vs. Mississippi State on April 15. Cortes now leads the Gamecocks for the season with 12 homers. Destino’s homer was his 10th of the season. Both Cortes and Destino are tied for the team lead with 41 RBIs on the year.
Justin Row is South Carolina’s leading hitter in the 2017 SEC Tournament. Row is hitting .462 (6-for-13) with five runs scored, a double, a homer and a pair of RBI.
Destino and Blair both tied their season-high in hits with three apiece in the victory.
For the fourth time this season, Wil Crowe reached nine strikeouts. He has reached nine strikeouts in three consecutive starts.
South Carolina is now 2-1 at this year’s SEC Tournament. It is the first time since the 2007 season that the Gamecocks have won a pair of games at the SEC Tournament. South Carolina’s eight-run win was the Gamecocks’ largest margin of victory at the SEC Tournament since an 11-3 win over Florida in the 2008 SEC Tournament.
QUOTABLE FROM HEAD COACH CHAD HOLBROOK
“Obviously this was an important game. We played pretty well. Wil (Crowe) was terrific. He has been a leader of our team and our program for years now. He is a special player in my book. I will always have a close place in my heart for him because he could have signed after his injury, but he didn’t want to end his career in South Carolina on that note. I am glad he came back and led our team and had that moment today in the SEC Tournament to throw really well. The nation is getting to see how good of a hitter Carlos Cortes is and it is certainly good to see him swing the bat the way he did today with those two three-run homers. The more and more he gets comfortable the better he will be and he is certainly a fun player to watch. Alex (Destino) is doing extremely well as well swinging the bat with three hits today. We are swinging the bats pretty good down here. We have had some pretty good power in our numbers in our three games. We put some runs on the board, got some momentum going and hopefully we can continue that into tomorrow.
South Carolina will meet the loser of tonight’s Kentucky-LSU contest on Friday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET. It will be televised live on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”