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Gamecocks walk-off USC Upstate

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASEBALL

As soon as Jonah Beamon saw the ball deflect off Jason Matthew’s glove and into the outfield, he didn’t have to worry about if the ball he skimmed across the infield was going to score a run.

Beamon, who’s been thrust into a starting role because of injuries in the middle infield, has made the most of his opportunity defensively and Tuesday night he delivered at the plate, driving in the game-winning hit as the Gamecocks walked-off USC Upstate 1-0.

“I thought it was going to get into the outfield,” Beamon said. “I saw it tip off his glove there. I was pumped when I saw that.”

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The Gamecocks struggled to find any offensive flow through the first eight innings of the game off Upstate starter Trey Van Der Weide, piecing together just five hits and three walks before the ninth.

That’s when Wes Clarke just missed a walk-off homer to lead off the inning, settling instead for his second double of the day. Jacob English pinch-ran for him and came around to score three batters later with Beamon’s two-out knock.

Clarke’s leadoff double in the penultimate inning capped a really strong last few days for the freshman. He’d get his second start of the year at catcher Tuesday, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, and over his last four starts is 6-for-15 with an RBI, three doubles and a homer.

“He obviously caught much better than the last time we gave him that opportunity. He’s made a lot of progress there; Coach Lake has done a nice job,” Mark Kingston said. “He’s becoming one of our better hitters. He gives as good of at-bats as anybody we have. He swings at the right pitches, he’s taking the right pitches. I’m very pleased with his progress.”

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In his first-career start, Coyne gave the Gamecocks exactly what they needed, pitching five shutout innings, setting a new career high in innings pitched and tying his career high in strikeouts with six.

The sophomore retired the first eight batters he faced, which included striking out the side in the second, and finished scattering three hits.

His appearance was much needed with the Gamecocks (27-25, 7-20 SEC) trying to save as much pitching for this weekend's series at Mississippi State as they scrap and claw to try and get into the conference tournament.

“It was big. He only threw 67 pitches, that’s the better than the five innings he gave us. He only threw 67 pitches, which means he’ll be available for game three if we need him,” Kingston said. “Everyone else threw a number that would make them available. To get a win and still have everyone available this weekend is exactly what we were looking for.”

Click for Tuesday's box score

After a few quiet innings from Sawyer Bridges and Wes Sweatt, Gage Hinson pitched around a leadoff single in the eighth before getting out of a huge jam in the ninth.

He’d hit a batter to load the bases with one out before striking out the next two batters to preserve a scoreless tie and give his offense a shot.

“The fans were great. I just know I had to focus in on the task at hand,” he said. “We had guys that stepped up and started for us like Parker throwing up zeroes all game. I just had to buckle down and do the best I could.”

Hinson picks up his first-career win, finishing giving up two hits over two scoreless innings and striking out four, maintaining his coach’s trust along the way.

“He got out of that jam. At that point, Skylar and I were looking at each other like, ‘Do we want to use Kerry here? Do we want to use Kerry to get out of this jam?’” Kingston said. “And we just looked at each other and said let’s let Gage try and get out of it and he did. He made some big pitches there.”

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Player of the game: Wes Clarke finished with three hits, doubling twice and setting up the ninth inning win.

Key moment: Gage Hinson loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth and got out of it with back-to-back strikeouts.

Up next: South Carolina hits the road for their final series of the regular season, starting a three-game series with No. 5 Mississippi State Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network Plus.