The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecock baseball stuns No. 22 North Carolina, wins in emphatic fashion

<p>FILE—The South Carolina baseball team celebrates a victory delivering the alma mater on Sunday night, March 20, 2022.&nbsp;</p>
FILEā€”The South Carolina baseball team celebrates a victory delivering the alma mater on Sunday night, March 20, 2022. 

Despite two early errors, South Carolina was able to get back to .500 after winning its midweek clash against North Carolina 15-2 at Truist Field in Charlotte. This marks the Gamecocks' fifth ranked win this season and the teams largest margin of victory so far this season.

After loading the bases with no outs in the first, the Gamecocks only scored one run but forced two mound visits and a pitching change within just 13 pitches. North Carolina was forced to use four different pitchers through the first three innings alone.

"We knew we were gonna face a lot of pitchers tonight," head coach Mark Kingston said. "Just wanted to take good at-bats against everybody they threw out there. I thought our guys did a really nice job."

Fifth-year first baseman Brandt Belk got things going early for the Gamecocks with a two-RBI double in the second to give his team a three-run lead. Belk extended his hitting-streak to 17 games and finished 2-for-6 at the plate with a double.

Sophomore infielder Jack Mahoney, who has seen most of his time as a pinch-hitter this season hit a three-run home run in the third, his first of the year. He was a surprise start at second base due to some lineup changes, most notably the absence of freshman shortstop Michael Braswell who got the night off.

"He needed a day off. He'd been struggling lately and I thought Jack Mahoney really sparked us out there tonight," Kingston said.

Junior infielder Braylen Wimmer picked up the most hits on the night with with three and was one of three players with a multi-hit performance.

The offense refused to take its foot off the gas, scoring seven runs in the ninth with six separate players collecting RBIs. Eight of South Carolina's runs came in two-out situations as they finished 10-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

10 of the 13 Gamecocks with at-bats found themselves in the hit column and nine also drove in at least one run. With a large lead, the team was able to give more players the chance to prove themselves.

"We tell guys all the time, when you get your opportunity, if you play well, you're gonna force us to really evaluate your position some more," Kingston said.

Despite the offense putting up impressive numbers, some issues remain. South Carolina struck out 11 times and finished 1-for-8 against left handed pitching.

Freshman right-hander Eli Jones started on the mound for his second outing and pitched two scoreless innings, giving up only two hits before being relieved by fellow freshman right-hander Aidan Hunter. 

"Last week was (Jones') first outing back after about a year and he struggled," Kingston said. "I think he showed some character tonight against a ranked team, a very good offense."

Hunter threw well right away, earning two of his six strikeouts in his first inning of work. He pitched four innings, giving up just one run and allowing three hits. Hunter was eventually awarded his fifth win of the season. 

Freshman right-hander Cade Austin came in to face his lone batter in the eighth while the Tarheels had the bases loaded. Austin built off his consistency this season and got his team out of a tight spot with a well-placed strikeout. 

The rest of the Gamecocks' bullpen conceded one run, an improvement after after allowing seven runs in its last outing at Missouri.

South Carolina will look to carry its momentum into Friday night when it resumes SEC play against No. 14 Georgia. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. and is viewable on SECN+.


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