In their apparent attempt to erase the nightmares we endured at times last season, the Gamecocks stayed hot offensively today, trouncing the visiting Eagles.
South Carolina wasted no time getting on the board, taking a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Marcus Mooney led off with a walk, John Jones knocked a one-out single, and Jonah Bride walked to load the bases. Alex Destino brought one run in with a fielder's choice, a balk brought another runner home, and then a single from Chris Cullen made it 3-0. After LT Tolbert got plunked, TJ Hopkins came through with a monster three-run homer to left center.
The Gamecocks tacked on two more runs in the next inning. Mooney got hit to start things off, Bride walked with two outs, and Destino came through again, making it 7-0. A double steal brought the second run of the inning in.
Winthrop got their first run of the game in the fourth inning, courtesy of a one-out single from Mark Lowrie.
Both teams were pretty quiet in the middle of the game, until South Carolina put up three more runs in the sixth inning. Dom Thompson-Williams and Jones tallied back-to-back base hits to start things off, Bride - who is apparently a baseball magnet - got hit by a pitch to load the bases again, and Destino walked to make it 9-0. The Gamecocks hit double digits thanks to an RBI sac fly by Tolbert and took an 11-0 lead on an RBI single from Hopkins.
The Eagles scored another run in the seventh inning and it was unearned, coming on an error with two outs. South Carolina answered by scoring five more runs in the bottom of the inning. DTW and Jones took back-to-back one-out walks, Bride got hit AGAIN to load the bases AGAIN, and Destino and Cullen each got an RBI to make it 13-0. Tolbert followed with a two-run base hit, and an error allowed the Gamecocks' final run of the game to come in.
Winthrop loaded the bases to make things interesting in the top of the ninth. They managed to plate two more runs on a one-out base hit and got the bases loaded again with two outs, but weren't able to capitalize.
Pitching was also a strong suit again for the Gamecocks. Starter Canaan Cropper worked 3 2/3 innings and allowed three hits, two walks, hit one batter, and struck out eight. A number of other guys also took the mound for South Carolina today: Tyler Haswell, Vince Fiori, Matt Vogel, Tyler Johnson, and Brandon Murray. While Johnson and Murray struggled a bit with their control in the ninth inning, the staff overall looked good.
Defense was a little shakier than it's been so far this season, but this is only game five, and it was hardly bad. The error that allowed Winthrop to score in the seventh inning seemed like something that might have just been growing pains of sorts, so hopefully those little issues will be corrected sooner rather than later.
With the win, South Carolina improves to 5-0, while Winthrop drops to 4-1. The Gamecocks will be back in action this weekend, when they host Penn State. The first game of the series is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m. at Founder's Park.