The South Carolina baseball team continued to ride on the momentum it has built over the past two weeks, jumping out to an early lead and running away with it to get the 13-5 win over No. 4 Ole Miss in the series opener Friday night.
"I think that was pretty typical of how we've been playing as of late," head coach Mark Kingston said. "Offense was really good, our defense was really good and we're able to a win a game tonight against a top-five team in America so another good game for us and now it's on to tomorrow."
The Rebels, who entered the series in 12th for the most runs in the country this season, did what they do best as Ryan Olenek took Logan Chapman's pitch deep over the left field wall to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. It looked like this would be the start of an offensive pounding from the Rebels, but a double play ended the top of the first and the Gamecocks got to work.
South Carolina loaded the bases with one out for the birthday boy, Justin Row. Row singled to tie things up, then Hunter Taylor hit a two-RBI single to left field to take a 3-1 lead after one.
The Gamecocks would just continue to grow on that lead as the Rebels could never catch up. Ole Miss got one back in the top of the third after a leadoff walk, but the Gamecocks took over in the bottom half of the inning.
South Carolina would load the bases twice in the third inning, scoring four runs off of five hits. They followed a similar pattern in the fourth inning, as Madison Stokes once again hit a leadoff single, followed by Jonah Bride and Justin Row getting on base to load them with no outs and start the hitting parade.
The Gamecocks would score five runs in the inning thanks to Jacob Olson's tenth home run of the season, a three-run shot over the left field wall, to take a 12-2 lead.
South Carolina has scored 72 runs over the past eight games, and the team is playing with a lot more confidence than they had in the middle of the season. Having key players like Stokes and TJ Hopkins back in the lineup from injuries, plus fixing the adjustments that hurt them earlier in the season is helping the team click and enjoy their time on the field more, which in the end helps them get the offense going and win.
"We do have confidence right now and the confidence has been earned with how they're playing," Kingston said. "You have an entire dugout that really is into trying to stick together and pull for each other and when you have that, you have a good, strong bond among that team. So to me, I just think you're seeing a team that has stood together through some tough times and now they're getting the reward and enjoying the rewards of playing good baseball."
As the regular season is starting to wind down and the school year has come to a close, the seniors are making a big impact on this team. Stokes, Row and Taylor all led the Gamecocks in Friday's win, scoring seven runs on 10 combined hits with four RBIs. As seniors, they're trying to make every moment count and get the Gamecocks to the spot they want to be at.
"It feels good right now but the overall what we want isn't here yet," Taylor said. "I think we know that and I think we know we need to keep playing like this for that to be a thing we can reach."
The Gamecocks now try to clinch their third straight SEC win for the first time since 2012. Game two of the series is Saturday at 4 p.m., as Adam Hill heads to the mound to try to rebound from a rough start last weekend.