Morgan dominates as Gamecocks even series
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASEBALL
After losing their last three games by an average of 2.3 runs, the Gamecocks needed something good to happen Saturday against Auburn.
They got that in the form of dominant pitching from Reid Morgan with the Gamecocks shutting out Auburn 4-0 to even the series and stop a three-game losing streak.
“We needed a win. We need wins right now,” Mark Kingston said. “There are no moral victories here. We’ve been playing better baseball but we’ve been losing close games. Today we were able to win one and it’s something we need to build on it.”
Morgan (3-0, 2.17 ERA) was absolutely electric in his second home SEC start, scattering just five hits over seven-plus shutout innings.
It's his first win in SEC play as he allowed just six base runners all day and held Auburn hitless in nine at-bats with runners on base. It was his fifth quality start in seven appearances this season, his first since March 9 against Valparaiso.
It's the first time a starter has given up no earned runs in an outing since TJ Shook did it against Georgia in four innings March 17 and the first time a starter has gone at least six innings without an earned run since Shook's 6.1 scoreless against the Citadel March 5.
He’s now pitched at least five innings in six of his seven starts.
“It’s amazing,” Kingston said. “Our defense generally plays pretty well behind him because he works quick and throws strikes. With him you know what you’re getting generally every time he takes the mound.”
Morgan would breeze through the first five innings but run into trouble in the sixth and seventh putting three runners on over that span. He’d get out of both jams, start to celebrate and walk off the field before the final out was officially recorded.
“Me celebrating all the time is me staying loose. I enjoy doing that. I have full faith and trust in those guys that they’re going to make the plays,” Morgan said. “I might as well celebrate early knowing they’re going to make the plays.”
For the majority of the game, the only thing separating the two teams was a solo home run from Ian Jenkins in the second inning, his fourth of the season.
The redshirt freshman launched the first pitch he saw Saturday 114 miles per hour off the bat and into the visitor's bullpen in right-center, but that was it for three innings as the Gamecocks (17-10, 2-6 SEC) put runners on but couldn't convert those chances into runs.
“I was sitting fastball and adjusting off-speed,” Jenkins said. “The main thing was I wanted to control what I could control and make sure I saw the ball deep. I took a big hack at it and good things happened for me.”
That changed in the sixth inning with the Gamecocks getting three runs in the frame, chasing starter Brooks Fuller after one batter and getting to reliever Elliott Anderson.
They’d load the bases with one out in the inning before Jenkins reached on a throwing error that scored two runs before capping the three-run inning with a passed ball.
Jenkins finished his day 1-for-4 with two RBI and both times he reached base runs came in to score. While that might not put it in stone he’s the everyday designated hitter, it does likely give him the nod at that spot Sunday.
“Very few guys in our lineup have totally solidified they should be thrown out there every day no matter what. We have a few of them obviously but everybody’s still being evaluated and given opportunities. If you want to play more, play well. He had a good game today so I would guess that gives him a chance to be in the lineup tomorrow.
Saturday was the first time the Gamecocks shut out an SEC team this season with the last one coming May 13 against Missouri, a 1-0 win.
Brett Kerry would cement that shutout pitching the final two innings and giving up one hit and striking out two.
“I know we’re a family and we stick together through the ups and downs. I know any time we’re struggling everyone is going to have each other’s backs. Like today, we scrap together for runs and the pitching staff was unreal with Brett Kerry coming in and shutting the door the last two innings with hitters doing their job,” Morgan said. “All around it was a good team win.”
Player of the game: Morgan looked like his dominant self from earlier in the season, tossing seven scoreless innings and giving up just five hits.
Key moment: After Morgan gave up a leadoff single in the eighth, Brett Kerry came in and got a fly out mixed with a double play to get out of the jam.
Up next: Sunday's rubber match will start at noon on the SEC Network. TJ Shook will start for the Gamecocks.