The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina baseball holds consistent offense, reliable pitching to sweep Miami-Ohio in opening series

The South Carolina baseball team swept its opening series against Miami-Ohio on Feb. 16, 17 and 18, 2024, at Founders Park. The Gamecocks started the weekend with a 5-1 victory, followed by high scoring wins of 11-4 and 14-0. The team is ranked No. 25 in the nation.

The No. 25 South Carolina Gamecocks swept its opening series against Miami-Ohio in a much-awaited return to the baseball regular season. 

South Carolina took the first game by a score of 5-1, with both team's runs coming within the first two innings. Junior pitcher Eli Jones got the start on the mound for the Gamecocks. Despite hitting the very first batter with a pitch, Jones settled in and pitched for six innings and gave up 1 run on three hits. 


South Carolina's bats came alive in the second game of the series, defeating Miami-Ohio 11-4. Junior pitcher Dylan Eskew started on the mound for the Gamecocks. He struggled early with three walks after the first. Afterward, Eskew settled in and pitched for five innings giving up only 1 run on one hit.

“I wasn’t nervous or anything. I was just really fired up, ready to go,” Eskew said. “I think it was when we scored — we went up 4-1 or something — it kind of just settled me down.”

The Gamecocks' scoring started in the second with 4 runs. Outfielder Ethan Petry started his sophomore campaign strong with a pair of solo home runs in the third and fifth innings. It was his fourth multi-home run game in his collegiate career.

Scoring proved to be more efficient for the Gamecocks in game two. The four-run second inning helped ignite the scoring for the rest of the game, with 10 runs total scored between the second and fifth innings. Four different players scored two or more runs.

The Gamecocks took advantage of poor pitching from Miami’s bullpen in game three to take a 14-0, mercy-rule win in the seventh.

South Carolina pieced together four different pitchers to finish the game in a no-hitter with nine strikeouts. South Carolina's offense notched the most runs in the series during game three thanks to Miami's seven pitching changes and 16 walks.

Despite it all, the Gamecocks showcased its depth bringing in six different players to hit beyond its starting lineup.  

"We definitely got better as the weekend went on," fifth-year outfielder Dylan Brewer said. "We just had to settle into our environment." 

The Gamecocks will now head into mid-week play with a few key takeaways after getting one series under its belt.

Something to prove

Kingston said before the season started that he feels the team’s ranking is only No. 25 due to its perceived lack of pitching. 

But it seems that South Carolina's pitching is not going to be a major issue when it becomes fully healthy.

After losing all three weekend starters to the MLB draft last year, the Gamecocks entered this season with some question marks on the mound. But the combination of Jones and junior pitcher Chris Veach helped calm some concerns. The two combined for seven strikeouts over eight innings pitched in the first game of the series.

"It does feel a little bit like (we're proving something)," Jones said. "But as soon as opening day hits, we're all one and we're not going to blame either one of us, good or bad. We play as one, and we're going to continue to do that."

First day jitters

The Gamecocks settled back into the swing of things after the opening-day butterflies. A strong start to the season gives the team more confidence going forward.

The butterflies are always (there on) opening day,” Petry said. “Kingston reminded us that opening day is probably one of the hardest days of play, as everyone is just very nervous and sped up. But today we just dialed in and put up 11.”

On opening day itself, the Gamecocks had a 6-run second inning where it tallied five hits. But it only managed one hit in the other eight innings.

"They kept us off balance (offensively)," head coach Mark Kingston said. "Early on it looked like it was going to be a typical Gamecock night where we had the 5 runs in the second inning, and then they kept us off balance the rest of the night."

Roman Kimball is back

With his return this year, Kimball, a redshirt sophomore pitcher, could be a huge piece of South Carolina's weekend rotation. After helping take his former team to Omaha, the pitcher has the opportunity to be South Carolina's biggest threat in the bullpen.

"His fastball had really good life to it. It was 93 to 95 (mph), with some serious ride and the breaking ball was good," Kingston said. "It's hard to know behind the scenes how much these guys have to go through to come back from Tommy John (surgery), and it was just really good to see his hard work get rewarded today." 

It was Kimball’s first start on the mound in nearly two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the 2023 season. The transfer from Notre Dame hung five strikeouts without giving up a hit in two innings pitched. Kimball is expected to gradually grow his pitch count as he continues to recover. 

"Just to be able to be back out here today with my brothers and my teammates and compete and have some fun out there and scream a little bit, just to be in that competitive nature again, it was everything to me," said Kimball. "I'm so glad to be able to have my teammates here to be able to watch it, my parents and everybody who's supported me over the last two years throughout this injury. It means the world to me." 

What's Next?

The Gamecocks will face Winthrop Tuesday at home in Founders Park. First pitch is set for 4 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.