USC Cruises By Kentucky In Series Opener 10-5
LEXINGTON, KY. (USC SID) — LT Tolbert and Alex Destino each homered and second-ranked South Carolina belted out 11 hits on the way to a 10-5 victory over Kentucky on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Gamecocks improve to 36-9 and 16-5 in the SEC with Kentucky dropping to 27-19 and 11-11 in league play.
Destino drove in four runs with Tolbert and Jonah Bride each driving in a pair as well. Chris Cullen went 3-for-4 and Marcus Mooney went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. All nine Gamecocks in the starting lineup reached base at least once.
South Carolina sophomore right-hander Clarke Schmidt earned the win and is now 9-1 on the year. He allowed five runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings with a walk and seven strikeouts. Kentucky starting pitcher Zack Brown suffered the loss and is 2-9 on the year. He allowed nine runs, seven earned, on 10 hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work.
Riley Mahan put Kentucky up 3-0 in the bottom of the first inning with a three-run homer, his fifth homer of the season. Evan White led off the frame with a single through the right side and Gunnar McNeill singled with a high chopper over third baseman Jonah Bride to give the Wildcats runners on the corners. After Schmidt struck out JaVon Shelby for the second out, Mahan would come up with the key two-out hit as he knocked a 3-1 pitch over the right field wall.
Carolina struck back with a run in the top of the third inning. With two outs and Alex Destino on first base, Bride knocked a double to right field allowing Destino to score and cut Kentucky’s lead to a pair of runs.
Tolbert and Destino’s homers would give the Gamecocks a 5-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning. Tolbert knocked a 0-1 pitch over the right field wall for his third homer of the year. With two outs and runners on the corners, Destino crushed the first pitch he saw over the center field wall for his sixth home run of the season.
Zach Reks cut Carolina’s lead to a run in the fifth inning with a two-out solo homer to right-center, his third homer of the year.
The Gamecocks answered though and scored four runs in the top of the sixth to take a 9-4 lead. Marcus Mooney led off with a base hit followed by a single by Gene Cone to give the Gamecocks a pair of runners. Dom Thompson-Williams would then set down a sacrifice bunt. On the play, Brown fielded cleanly but threw wide at first allowing Thompson-Williams to reach base and Mooney to score. Destino would drive in his fourth run with a RBI groundout followed by Bride’s second RBI double of the game. Madison Stokes would drive in the fourth run of the frame with a sac fly to right-center scoring pinch runner Danny Blair.
Kentucky would score its final run in the bottom of the sixth. South Carolina would get a run in the ninth as Stokes walked, Cullen doubled and Stokes scored on Tolbert’s sac fly to right field.
The four-run fourth inning that featured homers from Tolbert and Destino put the Gamecocks in the lead for good.
All nine Gamecocks in the starting lineup reached base at least once.
Gene Cone extended his school record hitting streak to 31 games with a base hit in the sixth inning. It is the longest streak this year in Division I baseball. Cone has also reached base safely in 34 consecutive games, the longest streak by any player in the SEC this year.
South Carolina’s 10-run total on Friday night tied for the most by the Gamecocks in a SEC game this year. South Carolina also had 10 in a 10-6 win vs. Arkansas in the SEC opener.
Gamecock right-hander Reed Scott and left-hander Josh Reagan both had scoreless outings out of the bullpen. Scott worked 0.2 scoreless with a strikeout and Reagan pitched 1.2 scoreless with two strikeouts.
Chris Cullen tied his career-high with three hits. It marked the fourth time this year he had three hits in a game. His last 3-hit game was last Friday vs. Florida.
Jonah Bride’s 2-for-4 day at the plate featured his first two-double performance of his career. He now has nine doubles for the season.
Destino’s sixth homer of the season ties him for the team lead with John Jones.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
It was a tough start, we were down there 3-0 in the first. That makes (the win) a little bit more satisfying, our guys kind of kept their wits about them. Clarke kind of settled in there. We had some good swings, some good at bats, good fortunes and Alex got the big swing there, hit the ball out and that kind of put the momentum on our side. It’s just one game, but a big win for us.
South Carolina and Kentucky will play game two of the series on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network Plus and can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”