No. 10 South Carolina Sweeps DH to Steal Series From CofC
COLUMBIA, SC - College of Charleston baseball dropped both ends of a doubleheader to No. 10 South Carolina in games two and three of the series at Carolina Stadium on Saturday afternoon, allowing the Gamecocks to escape with the series bragging rights after the Cougars convincingly won game one on Friday night.
After Charleston (1-2) outclassed the South Carolina in the opener on Friday night, the resurgent Gamecocks combined for 20 hits in Saturday's doubleheader, ultimately rallying off 7-1 and 8-3 victories.
"It's early in the season, but overall I am very proud and confident in this ball club," said head coach Monte Lee. "I thought defensively we played very well. We swung the bats okay, but we've got to be able to handle a good fastball. [Gamecock game two starter] Wil Crowe had a 90-plus MPH fastball; [game three closer] Taylor Widener had a power fastball at the end. If we are going to play deep into the season, we're going to have to be able to handle a good fastball, so we'll need to do a better job there.
"Pitching-wise, we have to do a better job of throwing strikes and forcing them to swing the bat. You have to give them a lot of credit, they swung the bats very well in both games. They did a good job of hitting balls we left out over the plate, but we have got to throw strike one. We gave up nine free passes in the first game; you're not going to win many ball games when you give away that many baserunners."
The Cougars will return to action with their home opener on Friday, Feb. 20 as CofC welcomes crosstown rival The Citadel to Patriots Point for the opening game of another three-game series. The Cougars will host the Friday (3 p.m. first pitch) and Sunday (1 p.m. first pitch) games at Patriots Point, with The Citadel playing host on Saturday (2 p.m. first pitch) at The Joe.
GAME TWO: No. 10 South Carolina: 7, College of Charleston: 1 (Box Score)
In the game two loss, the Cougars were punished for issuing nine free passes to first base as a pitching staff.
Right-handed junior starter Nathan Helvey looked to cruise through the first inning, quickly retiring the first two Gamecocks on a strikeout and lazy fly ball to short. The Gamecocks then put runners on the corners, however, with a Kyle Martin walk and Alex Destino single, and a passed ball to the backstop allowed Martin to scurry home, unearned.
Unlike Friday's game one, the Cougars did not have an immediate response to a South Carolina run in the first, and the Gamecocks added to their lead in the bottom of the second. Back-to-back walks and a sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position, and a Jordan Gore double into the right field corner plated both runners. That turned the lineup over for Gene Cone, who singled into center and allowed Gore to score from second. A walk and RBI single by Martin ensued, before Helvey neutralized the threat with an inning-ending strikeout, but not before the Gamecocks plated a crooked four runs on three hits and seven-straight productive at-bats.
The Cougars reinserted themselves into the game when Tommy Richter led off the third with a double into the left field corner in his first collegiate at-bat, setting up his first collegiate run when Champ Rowland singled in the next at-bat, cutting the deficit to 5-1.
After Helvey dealt scoreless frames in the third and fourth innings, freshman Jake McBreairty relieved him in the top of the fifth. McBreairty made quick work of the first two batters he faced, but found himself in a jam after back-to-back walks. Veteran third baseman Carl Wise fielded a tough hop on a groundball towards the line and fired across the infield in time to neutralize the threat.
The Gamecocks got to the left-handed freshman in the sixth, however, with a walk and back-to-back singles plating a run before he was replaced by senior Hunter Rice. Rice inherited two runners in scoring position, and a single into left field plated one of them, but left fielder Ryan Brown hosed the trailing runner at the plate to end the inning.
Second baseman Blake Butler continued to display his plus-defending ability with a dazzling, over-the-shoulder catch in in shallow right field in the eighth inning. A Gamecock baserunner assumed it was an uncatchable ball and broke for second base, and Butler alertly doubled him off at first after making the web-gem worthy snag.
Other than the one-run third, the Cougars were unable to get to Gamecock starter Wil Crowe, who scattered four hits and one run while striking out a career-high 10 batters in 6.1 innings of work. Reliever Vince Fiori was equally effective, reducing the Cougars to one base runner in the remaining 2.2 innings he pitched in relief.
GAME THREE: No. 10 South Carolina: 8, College of Charleston: 4 (Box Score)
The Cougars went to work right away in the rubber game, with Ryan Brown doubling into left to lead off the game and Nick Pappas hammering the first pitch he saw into the home-team bullpen beyond right center, putting CofC up 2-0 and marking the first time in the series the Cougars struck first.
The Cougars threatened in the third with back-to-back singles by Morgan Phillips and Erven Roper which put runners on the corners. Bradley Jones looked to deliver the run when he laced a line drive off the outstretched glove of the Gamecock third baseman, but unfortunately for the Cougars it deflected right to shortstop Marcus Mooney who went to second for the inning-ending putout.
After a Gamecock single in the bottom of the first, Bauer retired the next seven hitters he faced until stumbling into trouble in the fourth. After a walk and Kyle Martin double, Madison Stokes singled up the middle to plate two runs and swiftly tie the game. The Cougars rolled a timely 4-6-3 double play to erase a baserunner, but Connor Bright shifted the tide with a solo homer to right for the go-ahead run later in the inning.
The Cougars managed a game-tying rally in the sixth with Phillips' second hit of the game followed by a double by Alex Pastorius and a walk by Jones to load the bases. Champ Rowland fell behind in a 1-2 count, but patiently worked his way back to draw a full-count RBI walk which plated the tying run.
The game wouldn't stay tied long, however, as a leadoff walk granted the Gamecocks a baserunner in the bottom half of the inning, and freshman Alex Destino homered to right field, putting South Carolina back up 5-3.
South Carolina added an insurance run in the seventh inning on three-straight one-out hits, capped by an RBI single for Max Schrock. The inning could have been worse, if not for a diving grab by Rowland at shortstop on a line drive back up the middle, leading into an inning-ended double play.
The Gamecocks put the game farther out of reach in the eighth on a two-RBI single by Jordan Gore which pushed the score to 8-3, the eventual final.
The Cougars didn't go away quietly, loading the bases in the ninth which put the tying run on deck, but a game-ending fly ball to right thwarted the comeback effort.
The No. 10 ranking for South Carolina is according to the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Cougars were receiving votes in the preseason poll, clocking in at No. 32. The Cougars were ranked No. 25 by Collegiate Baseball, No. 35 by NCBWA and No. 22 by Sporting News.
The game two lineup was as follows: 1. Ryan Brown (LF) | 2. Blake Butler (2B) | 3. Nick Pappas (1B) | 4. Carl Wise (3B) | 5. Erven Roper (C) | 6. Morgan Phillips (CF) | 7. Bradley Jones (RF) | 8. Tommy Richter (DH) | 9. Champ Rowland (SS). From game one to two, Phillips and Roper switched places in the 5-6 holes and Richter made his first career start, replacing Alex Pastorius as the DH in the 8 hole.
Richter doubled into the corner in left in his first collegiate at-bat, and scored his first career run on an RBI single by Champ Rowland.
Starter Nathan Helvey was tagged with the game two loss after allowing five runs (four earned), on four hits in 4.0 innings. He struck out four, but allowed five walks. He faced 21 batters and threw 77 pitches. Jake McBreairty and Hunter Rice pitched in relief.
The Cougars reached their leadoff hitter in 5-of-9 innings but could only convert the effort into one run.
The pitching staff was plagued by a lack of control, ultimately issuing nine free passes (seven walks, two HBPs).
The game three lineup looked like: 1. Ryan Brown (LF) | 2. Blake Butler (2B) | 3. Nick Pappas (1B) | 4. Carl Wise (3B) | 5. Morgan Phillips (CF) | 6. Erven Roper (C) | 7. Alex Pastorius (DH) | 8. Bradley Jones (RF) | 9. Champ Rowland (SS), matching the game one lineup with Pastorius and Jones flip-flopped in the 7-8 holes.
Starter Eric Bauer went 5.1 innings, allowing four runs on four hits with three strikeouts against two walks. At one point he retired seven consecutive hitters before getting into trouble in the fourth. Hayden McCutcheon, Brandon Glazer and Chase Henry also pitched.
Nick Pappas' two-run homerun in the top of the first marked the first time in the series the Cougars scored first. The team to score first went 1-2 in the series.