Gamecocks use big inning to wallop Vols, sweep series
KNOXVILLE—After needing extra innings to beat Tennessee Saturday, South Carolina didn’t need more than one Sunday.
Holding onto a slim one-run lead, Gamecocks exploded for seven runs on eight hits in the fifth inning to cruise to a 10-2 win over Tennessee and their first sweep of the season.
“We played three pretty solid days of baseball. It’s easy to be satisfied after you win two, but they didn’t want any part of just getting two," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "They came out today with a lot of energy and juice and played really well.”
The inning started on a Madison Stokes double as the Gamecocks would string together five straight hits, plating four runs before recording their first out. Stokes would also start the scoring in the second inning with a two-run homer to left field.
Five Gamecocks homered this weekend with every ball being hit to left field.
"We got some guys with some athletic ability, some explosiveness, some bat speed and they got into some balls this weekend. it was nice to see. I don't think we've done that up to this point in three consecutive games," Holbrook said. "we just played good, clean baseball."
Vol starter Will Neely left three batters into the fifth after taking a line drive off of his hand. Garrett Stallings replaced Neely and gave up four runs on five hits and only recorded two outs.
Of the Gamecocks’ eight hits, two were for extra bases, including a double for Alex Destino. The Gamecocks sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning with Hunter Taylor going 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Tennessee scratched across a run in the fifth on a RBI single off Sawyer Bridges and the Gamecocks got it back in the 8th on a solo, no-doubter home run from Destino. That ties him for the team lead with four home runs and he has a team-leading 17 RBI.
Eight of South Carolina’s nine position players tallied a hit, and four had multi-hit days. Matt Williams, who hit leadoff for the first time the season, went 3-for-5 with one RBI and a run scored.
The 14 hits Sunday capped a weekend where the Gamecocks put up 23 runs on 33 hits.
“We can continue to improve on that and get better," Stokes said. "We’re not going to be satisfied with the runs and hits this weekend; we’re going to continue to improve and get ready for the next game.”
Cody Morris started the game for South Carolina, going 3.2 innings and giving up just one run on three hits. He had three strikeouts and walks each. The redshirt freshman put runners on base in all four innings he pitched but worked out of jams in three of them.
He was relieved with two outs in the third by Sawyer Bridges, who would give up just one run in 1.2 innings. Colby Lee relieved Bridges, pitching a perfect four innings to close the game and pick up his first career win in just his second career outing.
Lee gave up just one hit, a two-out double in the ninth inning, while striking out five of the 13 batters he faced.
“I felt great," Lee said. "I felt like I had my best stuff today.”
Sunday’s win is the Gamecocks first this year to close out the week, going 0-3 beforehand. It’s the first three-game series sweep for South Carolina this season. It has now won seven straight games and eight of its last 10.
"They should be happy with how they’ve played. There’s a lot of baseball left and we have nine more conference series. We’ve been 3-and-0 before and things haven’t turned out so well. Let’s not put the cart before the horse, but they feel good about themselves," Holbrook said. "We played a high level all weekend long.”
Turning Point: The fifth inning. The Gamecocks sent 12 batters to the plate as they scratch across seven runs on eight hits. The game was never in doubt after that, as the Gamecocks cruised to their first Sunday victory of the season.
Top Performer: Alex Destino. He went 2-for-4 with three RBI, including a solo home run in the 8th that cleared the entire stadium. He now has five multi-hit games and five multi-RBI games this year.
Up Next: The Gamecocks return to Founders Park Wednesday for the first time in over a week to face Charleston Southern at 7 p.m.