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March 26, 2014

USC downs Coastal Carolina 4-0

Beal and Britt

Evan Beal is back.

Starting for the first time this year due to a stress reaction in his back and first time since April 2013 due to ineffectiveness down the stretch as a sophomore, Beal showed why the coaches are so high on his stuff with four innings of no-hit baseball as No. 2 South Carolina defeated Coastal Carolina 4-0 Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium.

A junior with 41 career appearances and six career starts before Wednesday, Beal was scheduled to start a week ago in Charleston against The Citadel but rain postponed that game. Without an appearance in Kentucky, Beal said he's been eager to pitch since being medically cleared prior to the Ole Miss series.

"It was kind if disappointing," Beal said of the delay. "But that kind of stuff happens in baseball.

"Not getting in there (against Ole Miss), getting rained out midweek, didn't pitch at Kentucky, it's certainly been a long road. I'm just glad to be feeling good an back in one piece. I'm definitely not in any mid-season form yet, my first outing I just wanted to control the zone a little bit and throw strikes."

"I got a little ways to go, I'm just shaking off the rust. I'm certainly happy with where I'm at now. I'm happy with it."

USC improved to 21-3 with the win, while Coastal Carolina fell to 10-15. Reliever Curt Britt (1-0) got the win for the Gamecocks, the third of his career, while Chanticleer starter Dalton Moats (0-3) took the loss.

Head coach Chad Holbrook said Beal's outing was encouraging, though he doesn't know precisely what role that translates into going forward.

"He obviously gives us an option out of the bullpen on the weekend," Holbrook said. "I don't think we're to the point where we're going to tinker with our three guys on the weekend, but Evan certainly gives us an option in the bullpen on the weekend and is an option to start midweek.

"I don't really know what his role is right now; it's one outing. But certainly he's been around the block here, he's thrown in some big games and been in some big moments.

"It was good to see him in a competitive situation. Obviously we can use an arm like that and stuff like that. In what specific role, I don't know yet. But we'll find a place to use him if he's throwing like he threw tonight."

Along with Beal, Curt Britt, Vince Fiori and Reed Scott combined to allow just one hit to Coastal Carolina and record the team's 10th shutout of the year, moving closer to the school record of 14 set in 1974.

"It was a well-pitched game on our part," Holbrook said. "For the most part we played good defense."

For the second night in a row South Carolina played without starting catcher Grayson Greiner (left thumb bruise) and starting second baseman Max Schrock (ankle). Holbrook said he hopes Greiner, who is wearing a protective guard on his thumb, can play this weekend and took BP today and that he'd be surprised if Schrock wasn't available this weekend as a designated hitter at the very least.

"All in all, I was proud to get two wins this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, when our team wasn't necessarily at full strength," Holbrook said. "It's a credit to our guys for kind of circling the wagons a little bit and finding a way to keep winning."

Like Tuesday, South Carolina again beat the chilly conditions by scoring early and holding on. After threatening in the first but stranding runners at the corners, the Gamecocks broke through in the second on a 2-RBI double from Marcus Mooney that bounded straight down the third-base line to the wall and scored Brison Celek and DC Arendas.

South Carolina added another run in the third when Connor Bright walked, stole second and was doubled home by Brison Celek on a ball that hit the third base and bounced over the fielder's head into left. The fourth and final run came home in the fifth inning on a leadoff single for Martin, two groundouts to move him to third and an infield single from Arendas.

Arendas (2-for-4, RBI) was the only Gamecock to finish with multiple hits.

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