By John Whittle
COLUMBIA, SC (TheBigSpur.com) — Three innings, five earned runs, four hits and four walks.
That was the final line for Sawyer Bridges, then a freshman, in his last appearance of the 2017 season. It turns out that Bridges had a severely injured shoulder that would end his season following that appearance against Kentucky.
After a couple of medical procedures, rest and rehabilitation and a lot of time fine-tuning his mechanics to best fit his rehabbed wing, Bridges got back on the mound on Saturday for the first time in a Gamecock uniform since April 28, 2017.
Bridges, one of the most respected members of South Carolina's baseball team even in just his second year in the program, entered in a bit of a tight spot with two runners on base and one out on Saturday. The Gamecocks were on top by five runs, but the VMI team he was facing gave South Carolina a loss in the season-opener.
Bridges got a four-pitch strikeout and then coaxed a meek groundout from cleanup hitter Peyton Maddox to end the threat.
"He threw two pitches for strikes going in different directions, the fastball running in on the hands and the slider going the other way," first-year head coach Mark Kingston said of Bridges' outing. "He had location with it and to me, that was the key. Of all the guys we threw, he had the best location. When you do that with good stuff, you get outs, and you get quick outs. That's exactly what we're looking for."
Bridges worked a clean and efficient ninth inning getting two more ground balls and then a three-pitch strikeout to close down the 7-2 win for the Gamecocks (1-1).
Kingston couldn't have asked for a more efficient outing from Bridges, who threw 16 pitches with 13 of them going for strikes. His fastball topped out at 89 mph but he was also able to get some run on the pitch to jam right-handed hitters.
It was just under 10 months since his last appearance, and now Bridges has overcome a major shoulder injury and erased that memory from late April 2017.