baseball Edit

Walk-off win secures series for Gamecocks


Standing at third Luke Berryhill wasn’t expecting the ball to scoot past catcher Jonthan Embry. All weekend Embry had been solid behind the plate, but when Garret Price’s pitch bounced and rolled to the backstop, Berryhill seized the opportunity.

The catcher raced home from third and scored the winning run as the Gamecocks walked off on Liberty 3-2 Sunday to take the series.

Luke Berryhill || Photo by Katie Dugan
Luke Berryhill || Photo by Katie Dugan

“He blocked everything all weekend then finally I guess the dam broke a little bit,” Mark Kingston said. “He did a tremendous job all weekend.”

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Berryhill ended up on third in the bottom of the ninth inning after what Kingston called the “play of the game” Sunday, racing from first to third on a Jacob Olson single into centerfield after he drew a leadoff walk in a tie game.

The catcher got a good jump on the ball and slid in safely before Price bounced a ball to the plate in the first pitch of Quinntin Perez’s at-bat.

“I was very confident. He got a good read and didn’t hesitate,” Kingston said. “He knew how deep the centerfielder was because at that point the outfield needs to be considering no doubles to not let you score on one hit. He got the read off the bat, knew where the guy was and knew he could make it to third. It was an aggressive play but also a smart play.”

The Gamecocks (2-1) fell behind early after starter Reid Morgan allowed two runs in the first inning battling some nerves but quickly shook them.

After that he responded with five shutout innings and held a Liberty lineup that put up 13 runs through 18 innings in check.

“He was pretty geeked up in that first inning. He’s better at 88 or 89 with sink than 90 or 91 where it flattens out a little bit,” Kingston said. “The changeup was three miles per hour faster than it needed to be, which is why I think he got hit a little bit in the first inning. After that he settled in, his velocity was where it needed to be and he gave us an efficient outing.”

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Morgan, in his first career start, went six strong innings, the longest of any Gamecock this weekend, and gave up just the two runs, one earned, and scattered six hits, just four over the final five innings.

He picked up three strikeouts and was the only starter this weekend to not walk a batter and set up things nicely for the bullpen already taxed after Carmen Mlodzinski and Dylan Harley combined to throw just seven innings the first two games.

“I took it as just another day. Yeah, our guys didn’t go as long as we thought they would but we bounced back from Friday night Saturday and did well,” Morgan said. “Today was just another day. I treat it like a scrimmage. It’s one of those things. You come out, work fast, get ahead in counts and do what I do.”

Then the Gamecock bullpen shut things down with Hayden Lehman and John Gilreath combining for a scoreless inning before Brett Kerry pitched two perfect innings to close the game and pick up the first win of his young career.

Kerry also pitched Saturday, another perfect inning, and has struck out five of the nine batters he’s faced.

“He came back with a renewed vigor,” Kingston said. “He’s been good all spring and had two great outings to start the season.”

The Gamecocks have now won their season-opening series for the second straight season under Kingston, having to win the final two games to do so both times. This time it was against a Liberty team he said could make some noise in their conference.

“it was a really good bounce back after the heartbreaker on Friday night to still win the series against a team where I’d be shocked if they weren’t in the NCAA Tournament come June. I’m really proud of the guys,” he said. “That’s a big win.”

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Player of the game: Reid Morgan threw six innings and scattered six hits over six innings while tossing five scoreless innings to end his outing.

Key moment: Berryhill hustled all the way to third on a Jacob Olson single to set up the game-winning run.

Up next: The Gamecocks host Winthrop at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. No starter has been announced yet. The game is not scheduled to be televised.

- USC-Liberty Game 3 box score