The No. 23 South Carolina baseball team continued its unbeaten start to the 2023 season in an 11-3 victory over North Carolina A&T Tuesday afternoon at Founders Park.
The Gamecocks scored big runs and took control in the game's later innings as the Aggies started to mount pressure on the home team.
“In the seventh inning it was a little tight, but we responded very quickly, and so I think that's a sign of a good team,” head coach Mark Kingston said.
The Gamecocks started off strong with a solo home run from fifth-year infielder Will McGillis. The team tacked on another run after an RBI single from junior first baseman Gavin Casas and was up 2-0 after the first inning.
South Carolina added an additional run to its lead in both the third and fifth innings. Freshman pitcher Ethan Petry hit an RBI single in the third to score the Gamecocks' third run of the game, and another RBI single by Casas scored the team's fourth run.
South Carolina's pitching held the Aggies to no hits throughout the first six innings. Redshirt junior pitcher James Hicks had one strikeout in two innings of work, and sophomore pitcher Eli Jones picked up the win, striking out three in three innings.
“(Jones) had really good command tonight of all his pitches,” Kingston said. “No hits, no walks, so (I'm) very happy with how he looked tonight. He looked very much in control.”
The Aggies put the Gamecocks in a high-pressure situation late in the game after a pitching change for South Carolina. Fifth-year pitcher Nick Proctor gave up four hits and allowed North Carolina A&T to score three runs, putting them only one run behind South Carolina.
Freshman pitcher Trey Wheeler was placed in the game to finish out the inning, and he did exactly that, ending the frame without allowing another hit and celebrating as he walked off the mound.
“I think I've always just been really emotional. That just plays into my competitiveness,” Wheeler said. “(I) don’t really care what the situation is, I'm just going out there to suffocate the offense on the opposing side. So, I think the emotion is just a by-product of being that competitive.”
South Carolina carried that momentum from the mound to the plate and had an offensive explosion over the next two innings, giving the team a more comfortable lead.
The Gamecocks responded in the bottom of the seventh with sacrifice plays by Petry and sophomore catcher Talmadge LeCroy.
South Carolina's offense sealed the deal in the eighth with a five-run scoring display. An error from the Aggies, paired with Petry’s third RBI, LeCroy’s second and sophomore catcher Cole Messina’s first, gave the Gamecocks confidence moving into the top of the ninth.
“(It) took a little while to get going again. Ten walks tonight, so we were taking good at-bats,” Kingston said. “It's hard to get those big hits when you're walking so much ... At the end of the day, I’ll take 11 runs on ten hits any day.”
The pitching pair of redshirt sophomore Cade Austin and fifth-year Wesley Sweatt closed out the game for the Gamecocks, allowing only one hit and no runs for the Aggies.
After nine straight wins to start the season, South Carolina heads into the weekend with motivation to keep the streak alive against rival Clemson in the Palmetto Series. The Gamecocks will play three games — one away at 6 p.m. on Friday, one at a neutral site at 1 p.m. on Saturday and one at home at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday — against the Tigers over the weekend.
“Obviously, Clemson is a really good ball club — big rivalry — but we're ready for it," Jones said. "We're ready to play anyone who is ready to come face us.”