Let me preface this recap by saying I don't want to get ahead of myself, considering we're only six games into the season and none of the opponents South Carolina has faced have been all that intimidating, but still: the Gamecocks might be returning to the form we've missed the past few seasons.
South Carolina got on the board first today, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a homer by John Jones, who is good at baseball. They tacked on three more runs in the next inning. LT Tolbert took a lead-off walk and stole second, Chris Cullen followed with a single, and Marcus Mooney beat out a bunt for a single, then a Penn State error got the second run of the game home. Jones, who is good at baseball, made it 3-0 with an RBI single.
The Gamecocks loaded the bases in the third inning, but they couldn't take advantage. After that, the middle of the game was pretty quiet for both teams, until South Carolina added some more insurance in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Clark Scolamiero and TJ Hopkins knocked back-to-back base hits to start things off, then Dom Thompson-Williams brought Scolamiero home with a double, making the score 5-0 in favor of the home team. Jones, who is good at baseball, followed that up with a two-run single for the Gamecocks' final two runs of the day.
The Nittany Lions waited until there were two outs in the ninth inning to end the shutout, scoring their only run of the game on a homer by Jim Haley.
Outside of the homer, South Carolina's pitching was pretty close to flawless today. Starter Clarke Schmidt had his longest outing as a Gamecock, working seven innings. He took a no-hitter into the fifth and allowed just one hit and no runs overall. He also walked one batter and struck out eight. Schmidt earned the win and is now 2-0. Colie Bowers went the rest of the way for the home team and was also very impressive, even with the late-game homer.
Even though the competition hasn't been quite at the level it will be when the Gamecocks get into conference play, it's still encouraging to see how this team is clicking on all sides in the early going. The team struggled from the get-go last year and never quite seemed to gel the way it needed to on the field, so it's good to see that doesn't appear to be an issue for this group, at least so far.
It's also great to see the new guys contributing so much - have I mentioned John Jones is good at baseball? - and to see solid performances across the pitching staff. Given the offensive struggles and shaky pitching we watched for most of last year, it's clear there have been upgrades made.
With today's win, South Carolina improves to 6-0, while Penn State drops to 2-3. The teams will meet again tomorrow at Founder's Park, with first pitch set for 2 p.m. EST. Braden Webb will be on the mound for the Gamecocks, while Sal Biasi will get the nod for the Nittany Lions.