The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecocks dominate George Washington as freshmen light up series

<p>The South Carolina baseball team gathers for a pep talk before the first game of the George Washington series on Friday, Feb. 26, 2022. The Gamecocks won all three games of the series.</p>
The South Carolina baseball team gathers for a pep talk before the first game of the George Washington series on Friday, Feb. 26, 2022. The Gamecocks won all three games of the series.

The South Carolina baseball team convincingly swept its weekend series with George Washington and was propelled by a big weekend from freshman shortstop Michael Braswell. 

Game One

South Carolina rode yet another offensive explosion to a 13-4 series opener win over George Washington on Friday, scoring five runs in the third inning alone.

Fifth-year senior outfielder Andrew Eyster played yet another great game for the Gamecocks, driving in two runs in his first two at-bats and finishing 4-5 on the day.

Freshman phenom Braswell also kept up his fiery start to the season, getting on base four times, finishing 2-4 at the plate. Braswell has now collected eight hits and six RBI in his young five-game career.

Perhaps the biggest story of the game was the plate vision showcased by South Carolina, drawing nine walks and only striking out three times. Four starters also registered multiple hits in the game.

"You want your guys to get as many quality at-bats together as you can, and when you do it guy after guy after guy, that starts to create some momentum," head coach Mark Kingston said. "When there's no guys that are easy to pitch to, it makes for a tougher lineup."

Sophomore pitcher Will Sanders started on the mound for the Gamecocks, going seven innings and giving up three runs while striking out five batters. Kingston came into the game hoping to see more length from Sanders, whose game plan has remained the same.

"It's kinda been the same — attack," Sanders said. "Just go at the hitters, see how long I can stay in."

Sanders delivered 87 pitches, finishing just one inning shy of his career-high innings pitched.

The offense took a hiatus during the game's final two innings but South Carolina only needed two relief pitchers to finish out the game. The bullpen conceded only one run and held George Washington hitless in the eighth and ninth innings.

Game Two

The Gamecocks got out to an early lead and defended it multiple times to beat George Washington 10-6 in game one of the doubleheader on Saturday. 

The offense got started early in game one, tallying two runs in the first inning. Eyster continued his hot streak with a solo home run into the visitor's bullpen in deep left-center field.

George Washington allowed four walks in the second inning to increase South Carolina's lead by one. 

Junior starting pitcher James Hicks exited the game in the top of the third inning due to injury. Though Kingston said Hicks' injury is general arm soreness, he said Hicks will be evaluated tomorrow. 

Senior right-handed pitcher Wesley Sweatt came on in relief and was credited with the win after three and a third innings of work. Sweatt struck out three and walked one while being responsible for two earned runs.

George Washington added two runs in the top of the sixth highlighted by a base clearing triple. 

To respond, Braswell continued his weekend tear with another RBI single to center field to start the offense. 

"It's been a dream of mine, especially as a freshman, to have an impact on this team in a positive way," Braswell said. 

He finished the weekend 6-11 with three RBIs, five walks and a save. 

Following the Braswell single, South Carolina scored two runs on poor defense. Madden then singled to third driving in Eyester to give the Gamecocks a four-run sixth inning. 

The Colonials brought the game back to within two runs after a three-run home run into the home bullpen from Noah Levin. 

The Gamecocks responded when Connor Cino provided a two-RBI single and Colin Burgess added an RBI sacrifice bunt to re-establish the five-run lead.

Following a George Washington run in the top of the ninth, Braswell came on to earn the save as he struck out the final two batters of the game. The freshman finished game three for four with two RBIs along with the save. 

"It's rare to see this many guys come in right away and make an impact," Eyster said of the freshmen performance following the doubleheader.

Game Three

The Gamecocks cruised to victory in game three, punctuating the series sweep over George Washington. The game, which was originally scheduled for Sunday, was moved up to Saturday due to looming rain in the Midlands.

The Gamecocks scored two in the fourth inning with a double from freshman Talmadge LeCroy and a sacrifice fly from senior transfer Matt Hogan.

The bats were once again awoken in the fifth after Wimmer brought home Braswell with a double off the left-field wall. Wimmer was brought in by a sac fly from Belk to make it 4-0. 

Belk drove in another run in the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle to make it 5-0 late. 

A crop of freshmen, many of which made their first appearances, pitched this game. 

Cade Austin got the start and provided two shutout innings. Aiden Hunter then provided three scoreless innings with three strikeouts of his own that earned him the win. 

The loudest relief effort came from freshman Matthew Becker. Becker provided five strikeouts in his two innings of work. 

"They did a great job ... they all threw well," Kingston said of his rookie unit. 

Their development will play a key role for the team down the stretch.

"We're going to need those guys to continue to grow up fast and throw strikes," Kingston said.

Kingston called on senior John Gilreath to close out the series. Gilreath was awarded the save from two innings of work to complete the combined shutout. 

The Gamecocks are back in action on Tuesday, March 1 in Charlotte, N.C. as the team takes on Appalachian State.