Clarke, Gamecocks power past Winthrop
Last season it took Wes Clarke 12 games to hit six home runs. This year he did it in a third of that time.
The Gamecock slugger hit three more home runs Tuesday, pushing his season total to six in four games, as South Carolina powered its way past Winthrop 12-4 Founders Park.
“I mean he’s a great player that’s playing really, really well for us. He’s locked in. he’s strong. It’s a simple swing," Mark Kingston said. "I've said a million times what he is, but right now he’s a player that loves to play and he’s locked in.”
Clarke becomes the first Gamecock since Justin Smoak against USC Upstate in 2008 to hit three homers in a game is now hitting .769 with six homers and a team-best 12 RBI as the Gamecocks begin their season on a four-game win streak and Clemson looming this weekend.
“I was really excited," Clarke said of his third home run. "Not much going through my head other than let’s go. That was about it.”
As a team they hit seven home runs Tuesday night, including three straight to open the eighth as part of a four-run inning that saw four different Gamecocks hit one out of the park in Braylen Wimmer, Clarke, David Mendham and Josiah Sightler.
Seven of the Gamecocks' nine starters picked up hits Tuesday with six of them having multi-hit days.
Five Gamecocks—Clarke, Eyster, Mendham, Sightler and Jeff Heinrich—all had multi-RBI nights as well.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of games like tonight out of our lineup," Clarke said. "This isn’t really anything out of the ordinary. We can all hit very well. I think we’re going to have a really good season offensively.”
The Gamecocks did it hitting well, .366 as a team Tuesday, while striking out just five times. They'd tally 15 hits Tuesday, the third time in four games the Gamecocks have had double-digit hits.
“What we don’t have is a feast or famine offense. We have guys that are good hitters that have power," Kingston said. "There’s a difference between feast or famine and good hitters that gain power as they get stronger in our program. To me that’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
Sightler, making his first start of the year, picked up carer highs in hits (3), runs (2) and runs driven in (3) while also hitting his first career home run.
“It felt really good. During BP the ball was flying," he said. "It was like get a good swing off, slobber-knocker on one and get it out of the ballpark. I was really happy to get the result I did today.”
The Gamecocks got off to a good start on the mound thanks to freshman Will Sanders, who 2.1 scoreless innings before reaching his pitch count, allowing two hits while striking out six. Of his 45 pitches 29 were strikes.
Outside of Sanders, three other freshmen threw with the best performance being Jack Mahoney, who struck out four in 1.2 scoreless innings.
“We threw how many freshmen? Four freshmen. They handled themselves pretty darn well. The stuff was there," Kingston said. "They still have some things to work on but I thought Will Sanders set the tone for us; 94 to 96 right out of the gate. He pounded the zone. That’s what we’re looking for: six strikeouts, no walks in two-plus innings. That’s a pretty good outing for a freshman in his first start.”
Player of the game: Wes Clarke, who hit three more home runs, all mammoth shots to left field.
Play of the game: After South Carolina took a lead in the fifth inning, John Gilreath came out and pitched a perfect 1-2-3 inning in the sixth to preserve it and set the stage for the Gamecocks picking up two more runs in the bottom of the inning.
Up next: South Carolina’s annual series against rival Clemson begins Friday on the road. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. on ACC Network Extra with Thomas Farr (1-0, 1.50 ERA) scheduled to start.