Gamecocks open SEC play with dominant victory over Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, TENN.—Down their Friday-night starter and go-to closer, No. 8 South Carolina got what it needed in big moments from Adam Hill and the middle of its lineup to wallop Tennessee 7-1 Friday night.
The Gamecocks (12-5, 1-0 SEC) were sparked by Hill's situational pitching and a seventh-inning, three-run homer from Jacob Olson. They start SEC play atop the standings after one game and have won their last four of their last five conference openers.
“We swung the bat when we needed to, we pitched it when we needed to and we played defense when we needed to," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "When you do those three things, you have a chance to win. It was a complete game for us tonight.”
Hill, who started instead of injured Clarke Schmidt, gave the Gamecocks a quality outing, giving up just one run on six hits in his six innings pitched. He walked three and struck out five.
The sophomore righty put runners on base in five of his six innings but worked out of those jams all but once, giving up a RBI single in the sixth.
Hill picked up his first win of the season after receiving little run support through his first three starts. Reed Scott came in in the seventh inning and shut the Volunteers down the rest of the way as the senior picked up his second save of the year.
“Adam, he threw great. He always throws great," Olson said. "I’m glad we could put some offense together when he gave up just one run.”
The Gamecocks’ offense came to life as they put up 15 hits, six going for extra bases. They finished 9-for-17 (.529) with runners on and 6-for-13 (.462) with men in scoring position.
The scoring was started in the third inning when TJ Hopkins, who was battling a hip injury and started at DH, lasered a bases-loaded RBI single to second base.
South Carolina (12-5, 1-0 SEC) plated one run on four hits in the third after LT Tolbert was thrown out at home on the RBI single and Alex Destino grounded into a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play.
With Hill’s pitch count teetering above 100 in the seventh, Tennessee would plate their lone run of the game. Jordan Rodgers would lead the inning off with a double in the rain and advanced to third on a fly ball.
Andre Lipcius would poke a RBI single up the middle to tie the game.
It didn’t take the Gamecocks long to regain the lead, though. After Tennessee pulled starter Hunter Martin on just 69 pitches, reliever Garrett Stallings gave up a three-run homer to Olson, a no-doubter over the left field wall.
"Usually on the road when you let an inning go by like that where you could have gotten three or four and you only got one, it sometimes comes back to get you," Holbrook said. "I was a little afraid of that, but Olson stepped up there in the seventh and hit one out of sight and got the momentum back in our dugout.”
Chris Cullen also joined the home run party, golfing a moonshot to left field. Just like Olson's the Volunteer left fielder barely moved once the ball left the bat.
“I was on deck for Chris’s and I literally said, ‘Wow,’ when he hit it," third baseman Jonah Bride, who had two doubles Friday, said. "The wind held it up a little bit, but that was impressive.”
Madison Stokes and Tolbert both had RBI hits to make it 7-1 as the Gamecocks would coast the rest of the way behind Scott’s pitching to win their conference opener and their fifth straight game.
“That was a huge confidence booster for everybody," Olson said. "We just have to take that and carry it into tomorrow.”
Play of the Game: Olson’s homer in the seventh. After Tennessee tied the game in the bottom of the sixth and had all of the momentum, Olson nipped that swing in the bud with a monster swing of his own. He golfed a ball over the left field wall to give the Gamecocks a 4-1 lead, which they wouldn’t give up the rest of the night.
Top performer: Jonah Bride. The junior went 2-for-5 with two clutch doubles and was on base for both homers Friday.
Up Next: Game 2 in Knoxville is tomorrow at 2 p.m. on SEC Network+. Wil Crowe (3-0, 2.25 ERA) will likely start for South Carolina with Zach Warren (2-1, 3.44) the probable Volunteer starter.