The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: No. 23 Gamecock baseball sweeps UPenn to remain undefeated

The University of South Carolina upheld a winning streak against the University of Pennsylvania during a three-game series starting on Feb. 24, 2023, at Founders Park. The No. 23 Gamecocks started the weekend strong and never looked back, finishing 7-4 on Friday, 1-0 on Saturday and 6-5 on Sunday.

The No. 23 Gamecock baseball team continues its eight-game winning streak with a sweep in its weekend series against the University of Pennsylvania. 

Game one

The Gamecocks started out its weekend series against the UPenn strong with a 7-4 victory on Friday.

South Carolina was led offensively by junior outfielder Caleb Denny, who had three hits and three RBIs in the game. Fifth-year infielder Will McGillis had two hits to add on to the Gamecocks' offense. 

South Carolina had 10 total hits and five walks out of 34 at-bats (.294), while UPenn was 9-36 (.250) on the game.

The scoring stretch for the Gamecocks began with a three-run homer by freshman pitcher Ethan Petry that just edged inside the left-field line. 

Denny then added to the scoring stretch with a two-run single, giving South Carolina a five-run lead after the second inning.

UPenn then responded in the 5th inning with a run-scoring off an error from second base, which caused the ball to fly into the right outfield. 

The next score for the Gamecocks came in the sixth with another RBI single from Denny. UPenn would then score three runs after a groundout and two-run homer in the top of the seventh. 

The Gamecocks would hold UPenn scoreless in the ninth inning to win the game 7-4.

Junior pitcher Will Sanders started on the mound for South Carolina, where he would have six strikeouts and two walks over the course of five innings. 

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Cade Austin came in on relief, starting out with three strikeouts in the sixth inning. After one and 1/3 of an inning, a slew of pitching changes would come for the Gamecocks to close the game.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Jackson Phipps was brought in at the eighth inning to pitch for the first two outs, after which he was replaced by redshirt sophomore pitcher Chris Veach, who would close the game for the Gamecocks by pitching two strikeouts and one walk.

“Nerves were a little high — first time pitching in a 6-4 game," Veach said. "I didn't want to be a nincompoop, but I just want to get the job done.”

South Carolina has been more accustomed to higher scoring margins in its previous games this season. While many fans may be concerned about the team’s offensive future, games like this are necessary, according to Denny.

“I think it was good for us to have a close game this early in the season. Some days, you're going to show up to the park and it's going to be put up 20 rounds, (but) some days it’s going to be a 'Donnybrook,' like it's going to be a battle all game," Denny said.

Game two

Pitching ruled the day in the Gamecocks' 1-0 win over UPenn on Saturday afternoon. South Carolina was just one run better than the Quakers to secure its second win in the series. 

“You've got to win in a lot of different ways,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “We are playing a team that has really good pitching. They don’t give you anything.” 

The Gamecocks' lone home run came from Petry in the second, which ultimately led the Gamecocks to a win. 

Petry continued his offensive hot streak, hitting .500 with seven runs scored, five home runs and 10 RBIs on the season.

“I don’t really read about (my stats),” Petry said. “I'm just out here to win. I’m just trying to contribute, because any day you can get cold. It’s baseball.” 

The Gamecocks, although slowed down offensively by the Quaker pitching staff, had three hits in the game. In addition to Petry’s home run, senior infielder Braylen Wimmer had a triple in the first, while senior catcher Jonathan French singled in the seventh.

The Quakers had its best chance to score in the second and seventh innings with runners on third, but South Carolina was able to minimize the threat with strikeouts from senior pitcher Noah Hall to end both innings. 

Pitching ultimately decided the game, as both teams showcased depth within the bullpen. 

Hall had a career game, picking up his second win of the season. Hall’s career-high 12 strikeouts in eight innings provoked emotion from both dugouts in a highly competitive game. Hall now has a 0.68 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 13.1 innings pitched.

“I feed off emotion. I feed off the crowd. It really just makes me want to pitch with more aggression," Hall said. "When you've got the crowd cheering for you like that, it really pumps you up, and it really makes you want to do good for them.”

Sophomore pitcher Matthew Becker came into the game in the ninth and picked up his first save of the season. 

Game three 

South Carolina finished out the weekend battling for a win and fixing errors to sweep the Quakers and remain undefeated.

“(It's) great to see us find a way to win when it didn't look so great late in the game. (It) was not our prettiest game — probably our ugliest game," Kingston said. "When you come back and win, sometimes those games are even more important than when they're pretty.”  

UPenn came out strong offensively, feeding off of South Carolina’s errors in a game of inches. The Quakers led the game in strikeouts, making 13 compared to the Gamecocks' eight. 

“They had really good stuff. We have to tip our cap to them,” Kingston said. "Every guy that came in was in that 92-95 range, they had a lot of movement on all the pitches and they were effectively wild today.”

Players who transferred to South Carolina prior to the start of the 2023 season also played a crucial role in the Gamecocks' win.

“They have been a nice addition to our lineup," Kingston said. "We kind of followed that Texas A&M model. We knew with the pitching we'd have, we wanted to have an offense that could grind you down and just have veteran at-bats.” 

The Gamecocks struggled offensively with scoring runs and leaving runners in scoring position 19 times during the game. 

“It's not about schmoozing in those situations. You can't just talk about it. Gavin came up in the eighth inning and actually did it,” McGillis said. “That was really nice to see. Sometimes it can get boring when guys are saying ‘Now we go, now we go.' Someone has got to do it, and Gavin did it today."

McGillis, a Southern Mississippi transfer, contributed to South Carolina’s seven hits with two hits and one run in three at-bats.

In an eighth-inning rally, back-to-back home runs by junior first baseman Gavin Casas, a Vanderbilt transfer, and McGillis gave the Gamecocks the edge it needed.

“I knew it wasn’t time to lolly-gag," Casas said. "I knew yesterday was a rough day, but that happens. It's kind of something you’ve got to shake off and laugh about it. At the end of the day, there's nothing I can do about it at this point, and (I) just keep moving forward.” 

For it's next game, South Carolina will host North Carolina A&T on Feb. 28 at 4 p.m.