The Daily Gamecock

Hill, offense put on a show as Gamecocks clinch series win over LSU

Hill "effectively wild" in six shutout innings; win Sunday would put Gamecocks at conference .500 mark

South Carolina (22-17, 8-9) continued to assert its dominance over No. 19 LSU (24-16, 9-8) Saturday with an 11-4 win before a packed house of 7,982 at Founders Park to clinch the series win. 

Heading into Saturday, the Gamecocks had not registered consecutive 10-run games since 2015. Ahead 8-0 through three innings and buoyed by Adam Hill's stellar performance, the Gamecocks saw little trouble from the Tiger bullpen and put themselves one win away from a .500 record in the SEC for the first time this season.

The win and the team's sudden change of fortune came not a moment too soon, as the Gamecocks stand in the middle of the SEC East exactly a month separated from the SEC Tournament.

Keeping in step with their 11-0 win Friday night, South Carolina jumped all over the LSU pitching staff starting in the opening frame. After TJ Hopkins led off with a strikeout, the Gamecocks shelled Ma'Khail Hilliard for three consecutive hits, the last an RBI double from LT Tolbert to score Carlos Cortes. Madison Stokes then came home on a wild pitch, after which Hilliard hit Jonah Bride with his next offering to put runners on the corners. 

Tolbert came home on Justin Row's sac fly to cap the three-hit, three-run first inning.

Following a pair of singles from Jacob Olson and Chris Cullen to open the bottom of the second, Stokes punched in his 21st and 22nd RBIs of the season with a double to right center. Tolbert brought Stokes home with a double of his own to make it 6-0.

Hilliard left the game with two out in the third after a Cullen sac fly made it 7-0 in favor of the Gamecocks. The righty freshman finished with eight runs, all earned, on eight hits in 2.2 innings.

Batting behind Cullen, Hopkins welcomed Todd Peterson to the mound by driving Peterson's first pitch of the afternoon up the left side to score Olson.

After nearly a game and a half of consistent offensive gridlock, LSU threatened a comeback in the fourth after an error-assisted single and a pair of walks loaded the bases with one out. 

But Hill stayed solid under pressure, catching Jake Slaughter looking and Hal Hughes swinging at strike three to get out of the jam. He would end the day with seven strikeouts and four walks in six innings of scoreless, four-hit play.

Though he kept the Tigers off the scoreboard, Hill (4-4) threw a steep 116 pitches in his ninth start of the season. 

"Adam was effectively wild," head coach Mark Kingston said after the win. "To me, the final piece of his development is he's gotta minimize his pitches better. He's really tough to hit but... he needs to throw more strikes."

Trailing 9-0, the Tigers finally netted their first run of the series in the top of the eighth. With Parker Coyne on the mound to replace Hill, outfielder Daniel Cabrera scored Austin Bain with a left-field single for LSU's first run in 17 innings of play dating back to a Wednesday loss at Tulane.

Coyne would see only one more batter, handing the controls to TJ Shook after giving up a three-run homer to Nick Coomes to put LSU behind 9-4.

In the bottom of the inning with Peterson still on the hill, Stokes knocked in his fourth run of the day with double off the left-center wall to score Cortes and Hopkins and put South Carolina ahead 11-4.

LSU nearly rallied again in the ninth with two men on and one out, but Shook forced Bain to ground into a game-ending double play to clinch South Carolina's first conference series since sweeping Tennessee on March 30.

Stokes, who collected three hits and two runs in the win, credited effective scouting for the edge that allowed South Carolina's offense to chase Hilliard, who entered the game 7-2 with a 1.75 ERA and .200 opponent batting average.

"Scouting report was for sure a big part of it," Stokes said. "Just to see what his patterns are, the pitches he throws, just the delivery. And then also just the practices we had... prior to the weekend really just focusing on how to create quality at-bats."

The Gamecocks will look for their second conference sweep of the season on Sunday at Founders Park. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.


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