After a long offseason thanks to the pandemic, the No. 18 South Carolina baseball team kicked off its 2021 campaign this weekend with a three-game sweep of the Dayton Flyers.
The Gamecocks stepped up over the course of the series, most notably junior infielder Wes Clarke, who finished his weekend with three home runs and nine runs batted in, or RBIs. The South Carolina pitching staff was also a force to be reckoned with as a multitude of Gamecock pitchers dominated over the weekend.
It took a combined effort between the offense and pitching for South Carolina to win on opening day. Nevertheless, the team came out victorious, winning 12-1.
Junior righthander Thomas Farr dominated in six innings of work, striking out eight and allowing one earned run. Besides giving up a solo home run in the sixth inning, it is safe to say he lived up to head coach Mark Kingston’s expectations of being a “Friday night guy."
“Farr did everything you want on a Friday night,” Kingston said. “He had great stuff, great command of the baseball. He was efficient with his pitches. He got us through six with less than 90 [pitches], as I said earlier. So he was everything we wanted tonight.”
After losing former ace Carmen Mlodzinski to last year’s MLB Draft, the Gamecocks had a hole at the top of the rotation, leaving it up to Farr to fill the void. When asked about his confidence in anchoring the pitching rotation, Farr did not back down.
“I’m fully confident in myself,” Farr said. “I came here to play in the SEC and I think I’m capable of doing it. So I look forward to doing this a few more times and showing people around the country what I can do and hopefully get through a full season.”
On offense, Clarke and Andrew Eyster each hit home runs and combined for eight RBIs. Junior outfielder Brady Allen had a fantastic day at the plate as he went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a triple.
Kingston said he was “really impressed” with the at-bats Allen, Clarke and Eyster took. He also stated that they gave the team “tremendously mature at-bats” and they look like “big-time guys that we know they are.”
The Gamecocks picked up right where they left off on Saturday afternoon, hitting five home runs in a 12-5 win over Dayton.
The Gamecocks continued to bat and pitch very well on their way to clinching the series, garnering 11 hits and compiling nine strikeouts on the mound. This included Clarke continuing to impress in the second game of the series with five RBIs and three hits, including two home runs.
“We have a lot of confidence in Wes. Obviously he works extremely hard, he cares a great deal and he’s a talented hitter,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “Can’t say I’m surprised, but the level that he’s playing at now is pretty impressive.”
Allen also notched a pair of RBIs, including a home run that got the ball rolling after a dry spell for South Carolina. Allen’s solo homer in the bottom of the seventh gave the Gamecocks some cushion after Dayton was threatening in a one-run deficit.
Redshirt junior righthander Andrew Peters also assisted in curbing the Flyers’ comeback bid with three strikeouts while allowing no hits. Relievers John Gilreath and Will Sanders also did their part on the mound, allowing no hits in the final two innings.
“It’s just playing baseball, something I’ve been doing since I was eight years old, nine years old, and just being in the moment was pretty cool,” Peters said.
South Carolina completed the three-game sweep in the series final, winning 5-1.
Other than a leadoff hit-by-pitch, game three starter and sophomore southpaw Julian Bosnic was in complete control as he struck out the next eight batters he faced, setting a school record which was previously held by Adam Hill and Alex Farrato. He finished with nine strikeouts on the afternoon.
After walking three batters in the fourth inning, Bosnic's day came to an end as reliever Daniel Lloyd was called upon. The Flyers scored their only run of the game on an RBI single from senior outfielder Jared Howell, with the run being charged to Bosnic's pitching line.
In 2.2 innings pitched, Lloyd did his job, allowing one hit and striking out three. Relievers Travis Luensmann and Brett Kerry pitched the rest of the way, combining for three scoreless innings.
With the game tied at one in the bottom of the eighth, senior shortstop George Callil came up clutch, driving in sophomore catcher Colin Burgess from second base on a one-out double.
Junior first baseman David Mendham put together a great performance as he went 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Following Callil's tie-breaking hit, he hit a three-run double to the opposite field to put the Gamecocks up by four heading into the ninth.
"It's going to help me a lot, shows that I can really play at this level and I know that," Mendham said when asked about what Sunday's game does for his confidence moving forward. "It's a lot of fun. I think we have a really good team and I'm excited."
On Tuesday, the Gamecocks will host the Winthrop Eagles at Founders Park. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. and the game can be streamed on SEC Network+.