COLUMBIA, SC (WIS & THE BIG SPUR) - By John Whittle, TheBigSpur.com
South Carolina continues to pound opposing pitching and knocked off Ole Miss 11-6 on Saturday afternoon to clinch its third straight SEC series. The Gamecocks (28-18, 13-10) have rattled off eight wins over the last nine games and have averaged over nine runs per game.
After a roller coaster early portion of the season that saw injuries coupled with a lot of bad losses, the Gamecocks have become remarkably consistent over the last three weeks offensively. On the mound, junior Adam Hill put together a quality start to give the starting pitchers a needed shot in the arm.
"You have to be good to win games in the SEC and I think we're playing really good baseball right now," first-year head coach Mark Kingston said. "Very pleased with the effort. Guys are really focused. It's a great ballclub in the other dugout, but we're playing really well right now."
For the second straight day, all nine hitters reached base at least once against a pitching staff that was in the top third of the league in earned run average. Also for the second straight day, the Gamecocks tagged the Rebels' (35-13, 12-11) starting pitcher with the most earned runs allowed in a game this year.
Ole Miss starter Brady Feigl, who entered the game with a 3.38 earned run average, left with a 5.09 ERA after giving up eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings. South Carolina had seven hits and walked three times against him putting up all of the runs in the third and fourth innings.
Senior Matt Williams opened the scoring with a solo home run in the third off of Feigl, who dominated the first two innings with his curveball. He also had an RBI single in the fourth. In total, five different players had RBIs over the two big run-scoring innings.
With an 8-1 lead, the Gamecocks scored two more in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-RBI double by sophomore Carlos Cortes, who was 3-for-4 on the day with two runs scored and four RBIs. Those runs would prove to be important later in the game.
With a big lead, Hill's job was made easier. He allowed only one run, an infield single that plated a runner from third base, in the game and struck out six over six innings of work. The junior gave up one hit and walked three in a 112-pitch performance.
"He had more command," Kingston said. "He gave up just the three hits in six innings, had the three walks, but that's better than it has been. To me, the command was better, got ahead of hitters moreso than he has lately, and when he gets ahead of hitters, he's a tough guy to face."
Hill has only gotten past the fifth inning once in his last seven starts prior to picking up the win against the Rebels. He's now 5-5 on the season.
"I was able to throw all four pitches for strikes and I think that was big," Hill said. "I was able to keep my confidence up. I have been here a while, know handle adversity and work through it, so that's what I tried to do out there. I wasn't as sharp as I would like but still had to get the job and put up some zeroes."
The Rebels, a top-five team nationally, wouldn't go away quietly putting up five runs in the top of the eighth inning. Freshman Carmen Mlodzinski, who loaded the bases in the seventh but got out of the jam, allowed three singles to start the eighth before being lifted for junior Graham Lawson.
Lawson, pitching for the second straight day, faced three hitters and gave up an RBI double and two-run home run while only getting one out. Junior Eddy Demurias came in and stopped the bleeding getting two outs without allowing a run, but the Rebels were back within striking distance.
Demurias allowed one hit over 1 2/3 innings with one strikeout in 20 pitches dropping his ERA to 4.03 on the season.
"That's a good ball club and they're going to score their runs," Kingston said. "They hit a couple of balls really hard, hit some ground balls that got through and we helped them with a walk here and hit a guy. It's going to happen at some point, and you have to weather the storm. I was pleased that Eddy came in and settled it down."
Back-to-back two-out doubles from Justin Row and LT Tolbert plated a run in the eighth inning to give Demurias a bit more cushion for the final three outs of the game.
In addition to Cortes' three-hit day, Williams also chipped in three hits with three runs scored and two RBIs. Senior Jonah Bride and junior Tolbert had two-hit days.
South Carolina will look for its second consecutive home series sweep when the two teams take the field on Sunday. First pitch is set for noon and will be broadcast on the SEC Network. The Gamecocks will send sophomore Cody Morris to the mound.