COLUMBIA, SC - Jordan Buster pitched the final 2.2 innings Tuesday night against South Carolina and struck out five batters as The Citadel knocked off the Gamecocks 4-3 at Founders Park behind Buster's stout finishing performance and a ninth-inning home run by Ben Peden.
The win by the Bulldogs (9-11) is the first over the Gamecocks (13-8) since the 2014 team claimed a 10-8 win in Charleston on April 16, 2014. The last time The Citadel claimed a win over the Gamecocks in Columbia was April 15, 2009, an 11-inning, 5-3 victory.
"I am proud of our guys because we got up and then (South Carolina) ties it, especially because a big swing like that takes the wind out of your sails. But our guys just kept fighting and fighting and what a big at-bat for Ben (Peden)," said head coach Tony Skole. "He got a breaking ball, just like he was looking for, and got it up in that jet stream. It was exciting and I'm just excited for our guys because it's probably not a fair fight on paper, but you don't play (the game) on paper, you have to play it between the lines. So, I'm very proud of our resilience and toughness."
The Bulldogs and Gamecocks headed into the ninth inning all knotted up at three runs each. Knowing his team needed some offense, Peden swung on the first pitch he saw and sent a rocket over the wall in right field. It was the first home run of the season for Peden.
The Citadel entered Tuesday night's game with only three homers between the nine position starters. In comparison, South Carolina boasted 28 home runs among the starting nine batters, including six by Jacob Olson and five for Madison Stokes.
After the Gamecocks were able to minimize the damage done in the top of the ninth, Buster came back on to close out the game. The outing started off a bit shaky as he walked Carlos Cortes, but he quickly regained his composure, striking out Hunter Taylor and Noah Campbell before getting Justin Row to pop up to none other than Peden at first.
The game started with Jeffery Brown leading things off with a single to center field before advancing to second on a four-pitch walk drawn by Jonathan Sabo. Bryce Leasure moved both around with a sacrifice bunt before Taylor Cothran grounded out to the pitcher for an RBI, scoring Brown to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first inning, SC tied the game up with an unearned run by Campbell. The Gamecocks then took the lead in the bottom of the second inning off a sacrifice fly by Campbell that scored Cortes.
Despite giving up the two early runs, starting Citadel pitcher Thomas Byelick enjoyed success in the third and fourth frames as he sat the Gamecocks down in order.
In the top of the fifth, the Bulldogs pulled even with South Carolina when J.D. Davis scored off a single by Brown and The Citadel retook the lead when Peden scored off a single through the left side by Leasure.
In the bottom of the fifth, Byelick got the first two outs with ease before Danny Blair doubled down the left field line and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Stokes walked to put two on, the Bulldogs made a call to the bullpen for lefty Will Pillsbury. Tuesday night put Pillsbury into a situation he already saw last week against Richmond when he was called on with two on and two out. Just like he did last week, Pillsbury did his job and got L.T. Tolbert to fly out to center field on his third pitch to send the game to the sixth with The Citadel up 3-2.
In the bottom of the seventh, Cortes homered to right field to set the score even at three-all.
South Carolina made an attempt to take the lead into the ninth as Stokes led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple on the second pitch he saw. However, Buster forced Tolbert to ground out to second, intentionally walked Jonah Bride, struck out Matt Williams looking and got Olson to fly out to center field to strand Stokes at third and send the game to the ninth all tied up.
Peden ended his night 3-of-4 at the plate with two runs scored and the RBI off his solo homer while both Brown and Leasure tallied two hits.
Cortes did the most damage for the Gamecocks as he went 2-for-3 at the dish with two runs scored, including his homer.
Buster (W, 3-1) earned his third win of the season, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings of one-hit ball that saw him match his career high for strikeouts with five compared to just two walks. The Bulldog pitchers fanned seven batters compared to just five by South Carolina's pitching corps.
Parker Coyne (L, 1-1) pitched the final two innings for South Carolina and was saddled with the loss after Logan Chapman started the game.
The Citadel returns home to Joe Riley Park this weekend for the Southern Conference opening series against Western Carolina. The Bulldogs and Catamounts will start the weekend off with a 6 p.m. first pitch on Friday, March 23 and will continue the series on Saturday, March 24 at 2 p.m. The series finale will be on Sunday, March 25 and will feature a 1 p.m. first pitch.