The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecock softball sweeps first two games of Carolina Classic

<p>The South Carolina softball team stands together during the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of its first game in the Carolina Classic against East Tennessee State on Feb. 16, 2023. The Gamecocks started the tournament with a 9-2 win over the Buccaneers.&nbsp;</p>
The South Carolina softball team stands together during the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of its first game in the Carolina Classic against East Tennessee State on Feb. 16, 2023. The Gamecocks started the tournament with a 9-2 win over the Buccaneers. 

The South Carolina softball team continued its winning streak, and came out on top after its first two games at the Carolina Classic that began on Feb. 16.

Game one

The Gamecocks won the first game of the Carolina Classic 9-2 against East Tennessee State on Thursday.

Each of the South Carolina runs was scored by a different player, and sophomore outfielder Marissa Gonzalez led the way with two hits and three RBIs. The Buccaneers only mustered two runs off of seven total hits and only benefited from one walk, while the Gamecocks walked six times. 

ETSU struck first by scoring two runs in the second inning, both off of ground balls. The first was scored on a throwing error committed by South Carolina sophomore second baseman Emma Sellers, and the second run came on an RBI single that rolled deep into the outfield.

The Gamecocks would rally back in the fourth inning, scoring all nine of its runs.

Freshman outfielder Kyye Ricks opened the scoring with a run from an obstruction call. Then, junior infielder Zoe Laneaux crossed the plate on a wild pitch. Sellers followed with a bunt RBI single, knocking in Gonzalez and giving South Carolina its first lead of the game. Eight batters later, the inning was capped off by a bases-clearing, three RBI double from Gonzalez to make the score 9-2, where it would remain for the rest of the game.

Assistant coach Josh Bloomer, who served as acting head coach this week, explained that the fourth inning was a big the momentum shift for South Carolina.

“We were really disciplined. A lot of times in that situation, you can try to do more than you're supposed to be doing and expand the zone, and we didn't. We took the walks," Bloomer said. "Once we kind of get it ... it becomes contagious."

Three Gamecock pitchers made appearances on the mound. Senior Karsen Ochs pitched three innings, striking out two Buccaneers while allowing no walks. Freshman Jori Heard pitched in the fourth inning, walking one batter and striking out another. Junior Leah Powell closed the game with no walks over three innings.

Game two

On the second day of the Carolina Classic, South Carolina continued its winning ways with a 4-1 win over Delaware. 

The Blue Hens put up more of a fight than the Buccaneers the previous day, holding the Gamecocks to just four runs and four hits. 

South Carolina found its stride offensively early on in the game, scoring all four runs in the first two innings. The Gamecocks got on the board in the first inning with an RBI double from junior utility player Jen Cummings that allowed junior outfielder Aaliyah White to score from her leadoff single. 

"We came out. We set the tone to attack early and get after the ball," Bloomer said. "I feel like we had a good plan of what we were going to see, so the kids did a really good job of executing it." 

Delaware answered South Carolina's run in the top of the second when Powell gave up two singles and an RBI double.

However, the Gamecocks had its most productive inning in the bottom of the second. Fifth-year catcher/infielder Jordan Fabian started the inning with a leadoff walk. A quick stolen base that put Fabian in scoring position allowed her to score off on Gonzalez's RBI double just two pitches later. 

South Carolina then capitalized off an error by Delaware's pitcher that allowed sophomore catcher/infielder Giulia Desiderio to advance to third after her sacrifice bunt that scored Gonzalez. 

"I think we just were attacking and knowing that she (the pitcher) wasn't going to beat us, and we could hit anything she was going to give us ... just capitalizing off of that,” Cummings said. 

South Carolina made pitching changes in the third and fifth innings that helped lead to the Gamecocks' victory. Ochs went to work in the third inning, recording one of her two strikeouts in the game to retire the side. After 1.2 innings, she was relieved by senior pitcher Donnie Gobourne, who clinched the save in the remaining three innings. Gobourne improved her season ERA to 2.74, facing 13 batters and striking out five. 

"I thought we did a good job of changing what their eyes were gonna do from a pitching staff perspective," Bloomer said. "We dropped Karsen in and Karsen kinda changes speeds and works a little bit more horizontally, and then obviously Donnie came in at the end with a little bit more (velocity), ... and I thought that combination just makes it tough on an offense to kind of make those adjustments." 

Delaware applied pressure in the top of the seventh, putting two runners in scoring position with only one out, but strong communication between Cummings and Gobourne proved vital to close out the game.

"She really just told me to shove it and keep doing what I am doing," Gobourne said. "We're good regardless of the situation that we are in". 

Cummings said that applying more pressure in the later innings should help the team drive more offensive energy to the end of the game. 

"Later in the game, we did a really good job of getting leadoffs on, getting runners on, and we didn't really necessarily finish it and score them, so I think just not letting up and capitalizing on those runners on,” Cummings said.

The Gamecocks look to continue its winning streak in the final three games of the Carolina Classic this weekend and use the event as an opportunity to find the things the team needs to work on. 

"Just from an overall standpoint we just wanna get better ... to get us ready for conference play," Bloomer said. "We want to stay aggressive, we want our pitchers to kinda take their roles ... we are going to have a competitive mindset that is just about winning." 

The Gamecocks have already showed off their pitching depth this week, as six pitchers have taken to the circle for South Carolina over the last three games.

What’s next

The Gamecocks continue its Carolina Classic slate with games against George Washington, Western Kentucky and Campbell over the next two days.