No. 17 South Carolina put an exclamation mark on a remarkably successful non-conference schedule Tuesday night, defeating The Citadel 10-1 in the final home game of the 2014 regular season in front of 8,054 fans to avenge one of only two USC non-conference losses this year.
USC battered the Bulldogs, scoring in every inning but two and riding a strong performance from freshman Reed Scott (W, 2-0) on the mound to finish the season 32-5 at home and 24-2 in non-conference play. The win also was the 40th of the season for South Carolina (40-13), marking the 15th consecutive season the Gamecocks have won 40 or more games. The Gamecocks also are the first SEC team to reach 40 wins this season.
For Grayson Greiner, who extended his team-leading and season-high hitting streak to 11 games with a 1-for-4 night, getting the 40th win of the year was a significant milestone to achieve.
"It shows the consistency of this program to bring in the right guys year in and year out," Greiner said. "We've never really had a drop-off season here. It's always just a high level of competition. We always try to win as many games as we can.
"Fifteen straight seasons with 40 wins, that's tough to do. You'd think every now and then you'd have an off-season, but it just shows the consistency of this program."
How important was getting 40 wins? USC coach Chad Holbrook wanted to rest Greiner tonight but played his junior catcher at Greiner's insistence.
"I wanted to get Grayson the night off, and he said, 'Coach, I want to play because getting to 40 wins is a big accomplishment, "Holbrook said. "I was impressed that he came up and told me that."
USC wasted no time getting on top of The Citadel with a little help from Bulldogs' starter Nate Brecklin (L, 0-1). Brecklin hit Mooney with the second pitch of the game, then walked designated hitter Taylor Widener.
Kyle Martin followed with a single to right field, with the throw home allowing him to take second and Widener to take third to put runners at second and third with no one out. Consecutive grounders to shortstop from Greiner and Joey Pankake each scored runs, and the Gamecocks enjoyed a 3-0 lead after one inning.
The Citadel answered with a run in the top of the second on two hits and a Pankake error, but that's all the offense the Bulldogs could muster against Scott, who pitched a season-high seven innings to earn his second win of the season. The freshman from Roswell, Ga., allowed just four hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking none.
"That was as good as Reed's thrown all year," Greiner said. "He's had some long stints out of the bullpen, but for us in some big SEC series, but he kind of took the bull by the horns and went all the way through seven innings.
"He threw four pitches for strikes and kept their hitters off balance.
"He kept the ball down, let his defense play behind him and was able to get some strikeouts."
Scott said he didn't know how many innings he would throw against The Citadel coming into the game, but was glad he could go seven innings. His 106 pitches also were a career-high.
"The first couple of innings I was trying to get everything under control and hit my spots better, and about the third inning I settled down and started throwing better," said Scott, whose previous high of strikeouts in a game was six in six innings against Ole Miss back on March 15.
"My defense was playing well, and (pitching) coach (Jerry) Meyers called a great game. I felt good."
So did Holbrook.
"Reed pitched a great game," Holbrook said. "He kept them at bay, threw all his pitches for strikes and he's a good pitcher. He doesn't have great stuff, but he's a good pitcher. The Citadel is a good-hitting team.
"They roughed us up last time, and he did a great job keeping them off-balance."
Already with a 3-0 lead, USC added two more runs in the third on a two-out DC Arendas single that scored Widener, who had led off the frame with a single to right, and a bases-loaded walk by Gene Cone.
The Gamecocks put another across in the fourth when Martin singled home Mooney after a leadoff double, added a run in the fifth on a double steal allowing English to steal home and put two more on the board in the sixth on consecutive RBIs from Arendas and English made the score 9-1.
South Carolina added its final run in the seventh when Mooney doubled for the second time of the night to lead off the inning, slid over to third on a grounder then came home when Martin stroked hit third RBI-single to right.
The last time the Gamecocks didn't win 40 games in a season was 1999 (35-23), and Holbrook said it was special to get it in the regular season.
"I'm proud of my team," Holbrook said. "We've faced some adversity. A couple of weeks ago, things didn't look so good for us and we were fighting and scratching and clawing for every win we could get.
"We lost five in a row but our kids believed, and no matter who was in the lineup they tried awfully hard and found a way to get to 40 wins in the regular season.
That's a goal of ours here, to try to get to 40 before post-season play. When you play in the SEC and have 30 games in the league, that's not easy to do. Now, knock on wood, we're starting to get healthy and can put some healthy guys on the field that were our regulars earlier in the year."
INJURY UPDATE: Holbrook said he didn't play second baseman Max Schrock in order to rest him for the Vanderbilt series, he didn't play him because Schrock was too stiff to participate. Holbrook said he's hopeful Schrock can hit against Vanderbilt.
"Max is going to be a day-to-day deal all the time," Holbrook said. "He was too tight and too stiff to go today. If he could have played I'd have played him."
Holbrook said right fielder Connor Bright took batting practice today before the game for the first time this month, but that he was still day-to-day going into the Vanderbilt series. Bright may be able to play defensively if needed, Holbrook said, or possibly could pinch-hit.
UP NEXT: USC plays No. 18 Vanderbilt in Nashville starting Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.