On a day when the South Carolina Gamecocks needed a huge boost from the offense to lift them past a Rhode Island team that shocked them on Friday evening, they got exactly what they'd been hoping for and then some.
The Gamecocks scored in each of the first eight innings of the game to hammer the Rhode Island Rams 23-2 in a game that was exactly the kind of shot in the arm the Gamecocks needed before facing the red-hot offensive squad from UNCW later this evening. The 23 runs breaks a record for most runs scored by the Gamecocks in a regional round contest, and the 21-run margin of victory is a program-high in regionals.
The game was not without controversy; the same guy responsible for taking the lid off of the run-scoring jar right out of the gates in Columbia was sent packing at the end of the first inning after colliding with Rhode Island pitcher Chase Livingston instead of attempting to slide into home base.
The Rams scored one run in a sloppy first inning that saw Adam Hill struggle to find consistency in his pitch location. Gene Cone drove in a run in the second before DC Arendas (who took Bride's place in relief after the ejection) homered in the third.
TJ Hopkins brought Marcus Mooney home with a sac-fly to right field in the fourth and Rhode Island made things interesting with an all-too-familiar solo home run over the right field wall to bring the game back to 6-2 entering the fifth inning.
This is where, for the Gameocks, things started to get fun.
An eight-run fifth inning, which began with a Chris Cullen pop-up, was sustained by great hitting from DC Arendas, Dom Thompson-Williams, Gene Cone, and Alex Destino, but it was also aided by some erratic pitching from Tyler Barrs (you'll remember him from Friday). The Gamecocks scored those eight runs on five hits, four wild pitches, and a balk before the closer was sent back to the bench in favor of Mark Silvestri.
In total the Rhode Island Rams would go through eight pitchers, give up 22 hits, and allow three home runs against a team that desperately needed a spark of run-scoring before the (hopefully) penultimate game of this Columbia Regional.
Next, Carolina will face-off tonight (at 6pm) against a white-hot UNCW offense that has scored 499 runs this season.
The good news? The Seahawks have allowed 9 or more runs 11 times this season and boast a 9-12 record in true road games.
We'll all be watching to see if the Gamecocks can put together another stellar offensive performance against a formidable opponent and force another game in Columbia on Monday, but for now we're going to enjoy this one, if only for a moment.