South Carolina bounced back from its recent SEC series loss with a 4-2 midweek win over North Florida. The win marked head coach Mark Kingston's 400th career win and lifted the team's record to 16-16.
Freshman right-hander Eli Jones, who's coming off Tommy John surgery, got his third start of the season but is still in search of his first win. Still on a pitch count, Jones went a career high 2.2 innings, striking out three batters.
"In the fall and early spring, it's really hard to be in the dugout and not be able to help the team, but coming back these last few weeks, it feels really good," Jones said. "It's kind of hard to say now, with the pitch count and everything, still getting back to it, but I'm gonna do my best to do whatever I can for the team."
The Gamecocks used a platoon of five bullpen pitchers after pulling Jones in the third.
Typical Sunday starter and freshman left-hander Matthew Becker came in relief for the second time in four days and closed out the final two innings. Kingston laid out the plan for the pitcher moving into the team's next series.
"He'll probably be a swing man where he could help us win a game or two in games one or two (of the series) if the game's there to be won," Kingston said. "If not, and he hasn't thrown meaningful innings, then he could obviously start game three."
On the other side of the ball, the Gamecock's offense was fairly quiet until the sixth inning, only collecting singles and two runs coming from RBI groundouts. Junior catcher Colin Burgess had the first big hit of the night, hitting a home run to give South Carolina the lead.
Senior utility-player Josiah Sightler had the largest impact, finishing 3-for-3 at the plate, including a deep home run to extend the lead in the seventh inning.
"Honestly this right here is all on Coach Caillet," Sightler said. "He told me that less was more, and when I started doing that, I just was able to see the ball more and kind of helped me slow the game down."
Red-hot fifth-year first baseman Brandt Belk took the night off due to sickness, but Kingston noted that it was "nice that we were able to scratch out a win without him there."
As a possible result of Belk's absence, the team struggled to get hits in critical moments, loading the bases twice in the fifth inning but only coming away with one score before stranding the runners. The offense had trouble getting hits with runners on base, going 2-for-13 at the plate and leaving eight total baserunners in play.
South Carolina will be back on the field when it hosts game one of its series against No. 25 Ole Miss on Thursday night. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. and the game will televised on SECN+.