The South Carolina baseball team recovered from four consecutive defeats in the past week to win a three-game series against No. 1 Texas over the weekend at Founders Park.
An all-around offensive display and important pitching performances helped the Gamecocks earn two victories on Sunday after dropping the first game of the series.
South Carolina extended its losing streak to five games after a 9-5 loss to Texas.
The Gamecocks got off to a fiery start offensively, scoring three runs in the first inning but were unable to stay consistent throughout the game.
Fifth-year senior outfielder Brandt Belk was the bright spot of the offense. Belk went 4-5 at the plate with a home run, finishing a triple shy of the cycle.
"Today I kind of got some luck going my way and swings starting to feel great," Belk said. "We're starting to come together as an offense as a whole, and that's really exciting for us going down the stretch."
Junior pitcher Noah Hall started for the Gamecocks, throwing a career-high 110 pitches while giving up seven runs and registering six strikeouts through 4.2 innings.
"He gave us everything he had," head coach Mark Kingston said. "The issue we're running into right now is we're having to ask guys to throw one more inning than we should and they're capable of throwing right now."
Hall was a surprise start over sophomore pitcher Will Sanders who is coming off a career-high 14 strikeout game against Clemson. Kingston explained the decision after the game.
"We have to use our resources and fill innings right now," Kingston said. "Just felt like with how many innings we have to play tomorrow, Will's clearly our biggest innings-eater right now, so we just felt we had to throw him on the doubleheader day."
Ultimately, the struggle to close out innings with runners on base sealed South Carolina's fate as Texas scored five runs on six hits in two-out situations.
South Carolina snapped its losing streak and evened the series at one game apiece after a 4-2 victory in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader.
South Carolina got all the offense it needed on six hits, capitalizing on mistakes made by redshirt senior pitcher Tristan Stevens and the Longhorn defense.
Junior second baseman Braylen Wimmer led South Carolina's offense with two singles, one double, one RBI, one run scored and a stolen base.
Belk also continued his hot streak at the plate, going 2-3 with a double and two runs scored.
Wimmer said there was not much that differed in the team's approach to this game compared to others and that earning the victory helped with their confidence.
"We got back in the lab, got to work, and it gives us confidence," Wimmer said. "We're gonna keep it rolling."
Sanders followed up his start against Clemson with another stellar performance, giving up two earned runs and striking out six batters over six innings.
His only blemishes on the day were a solo home run by redshirt junior outfielder Eric Kennedy in the first inning and a string of three consecutive walks in the fifth that brought home another run.
Kingston said he learned a lot about the team's toughness, especially given the pitching staff's injury situation.
"What today shows is that you can be a good team if you continue to fight through the adversity, and we're going to need more pitchers to step up," Kingston said.
A complete performance saw the Gamecocks sweep the Sunday doubleheader and clinch the series with a 9-4 victory.
Kingston said the doubleheader sweep was exactly what the team needed.
"(It was) one of the best days for Gamecock baseball since I've been here, in terms of beating the No. 1 team in the country twice in one day," Kingston said.
Despite going down early on a first inning solo home run by redshirt junior first baseman Ivan Melendez, the Gamecocks offense kicked into gear by scoring nine unanswered runs.
The team reach its offensive peak during the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring five runs on five singles, two walks and a sacrifice fly.
"We just took great at bats," Kingston said. "It's hard to put your finger on why we struggled to score last week, and I think you got to tip your cap to the team we played last week — their pitching's really good, and so is Texas' — and maybe what we went through last weekend helped us prepare, be more ready for this weekend."
South Carolina got some help on the mound from freshman pitcher Matthew Becker, who impressed in his first collegiate start. Becker registered 11 strikeouts through six innings and allowed only one base hit — Melendez's first-inning home run.
"Going into it, I was obviously pretty nervous — No. 1 team in the county, first start — but as soon as I got up there, I saw my teammates behind me, kinda just locked in and it all fell in place,"Becker said.
Wimmer said South Carolina's victory over Texas was "a good team win."
"It's fun, that was a fun series," Wimmer said. "That's why you come here and play this game, in this environment, in this league."
South Carolina returns to action at Founders Park Tuesday against Gardner-Webb. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.