Gamecocks fall to Liberty in season opener

Gamecocks fall to Liberty in season opener
(Source: South Carolina Athletics)

COLUMBIA - The University of South Carolina baseball team held a 5-4 lead with two out in the top of the ninth over Liberty, but a solo home run sent the game to extra and a run in the top of the 11th gave the Flames a 6-5, 11-inning win over the Gamecocks Friday (Feb. 15) on opening day at Founders Park.

The Gamecocks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second as Brady Allen belted a three-run home run in his first collegiate at-bat, scoring Luke Berryhill and Jacob Olson. Berryhill tripled to start that inning and Olson reached on an error. Both runners trotted home on Allen's blast. Liberty responded with three runs of its own in the top of the third as Cam Locklear's three-run double down the line in left scored a trio of Flames.

Carolina retook the lead in the fifth as Andrew Eyster's doubled to left, scoring Chris Cullen, who doubled to open the inning. Both teams scored a run in the eighth. Jaylen Guy doubled to left to tie the game at four, but TJ Hopkins belted a solo home run to straightaway center field, putting Carolina up 5-4 in the eighth. Liberty was down to its final out in the ninth, but Will Wagner hit a solo home run off Sawyer Bridges to tie the game at five. The Flames scored on a wild pitch in the 11th to seal the win.

Carmen Mlodzinski started for the Gamecocks on opening day. He struck out three and allowed six hits and three runs in 4.1 innings of work. Carolina pitching struck out 17 batters, as Bridges had six punchouts in 2.2 innings of work. The loss went to John Gilreath, who allowed an unearned run in his inning of work with two strikeouts.

Allen was 2-for-4 with three RBI, while Olson had a pair of doubles. Wagner led Liberty with three hits.

GAMECHANGER

The Flames scored a run in the 11th on an error, passed ball, groundout and wild pitch.

KEY STAT

Carolina had 10 hits on the day, seven of which were for extra bases.

NOTABLE

• Carolina played in an extra-inning game on opening day for the first time in 2006, when they defeated Elon in 11 innings.

• The Gamecocks started five newcomers on opening day - Brady Allen, Andrew Eyster, Luke Berryhill, Nick Neville and Josiah Sightler.

• Hopkins homered in his first game back after missing 26 games in 2018 to injury.

• The Gamecocks used five pitchers and each had at least two strikeouts in their outing.

• South Carolina is now 86-41 all-time on opening day.

• The loss snaps a three-game winning streak against Liberty.

• Friday's attendance at Founders Park was 7,507.

UP NEXT

South Carolina and Liberty continue the series on Saturday (Feb. 16) at 3 p.m. at Founders Park.