COLUMBIA, SC (WIS & THE BIG SPUR) - By John Whittle, TheBigSpur.com
Playing their final weekend and being honored in a pregame ceremony, South Carolina's seniors - plus junior Adam Hill - led a series-tying charge defeating Missouri 6-3 on Saturday afternoon at Founders Park. All five seniors had either an RBI or a run scored while Hill twirled seven shutout innings to pick up the victory.
The seniors have been critical in this late-season push towards the postseason and with the victory, the Gamecocks (29-21, 14-12) clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament. Hill weathered a lightning delay that lasted 61 minutes in the middle of his outing as he returned to early-season form.
"He put us on his back and we won because of him," first-year head coach Mark Kingston said. "He had his best command in a long time today. I think he's getting more comfortable. Maybe he's feeling healthier as the season goes on. The big thing is, is he throwing strikes? That's two really good starts in a row for Adam, and no question that's what we need down the stretch."
The Gamecocks opened the scoring in the first inning as seniors Madison Stokes and Jonah Bride registered RBI groundouts scoring Noah Campbell and Carlos Cortes, respectively. Campbell singled to begin the game and was followed by a double from Cortes as Missouri starting pitcher Michael Plassmeyer was touched up a bit early.
The next two runs came in the fourth when senior Justin Row led off the inning with a solo home run. Senior Hunter Taylor, who reached base on a walk and advanced to third base on an infield single by Jacob Olson coupled with an error, came into score on a successful squeeze bunt attempt from senior Matt Williams.
"I don't think our team was going to let them lose today," Kingston said. "The quality of those kids, they've meant so much to this program, I really felt in that dugout our team really wanted to win for those guys."
While the seniors provided the runs, Hill was as dominant on the mound as he has been since his start against Clemson the third game of the season. Making what could be his final start at Founders Park, Hill encountered very little trouble but was able to work out of a big jam in the third inning.
The right-hander allowed a walk sandwiched between two singles to load the bases with no one out. After a force out at home on a ground ball to Williams at first base, Hill coaxed an easy double play ground ball to end the inning and keep his shutout.
"Him getting out of that really energized us," Kingston said. "That could have been the difference in the ball game. They get ahead there, have a big inning, no telling how that game turns out. Adam showed a lot to his teammates right there; that was huge."
Even after an hour and one-minute rain delay, Hill was able to take the mound and go deep into the game. He threw up three more scoreless innings and left the game after seven innings and 109 pitches. He gave up four hits and two walks striking out eight. His strikeout total was his highest since missing a start on March 23.
"I got back to the basics throwing a lot of fastballs and the stuff that made me successful in the past," Hill said. "When I came back out, I had to dial it back in. I had to lock back in and get in the strike zone. I ended up throwing pretty well."
Junior LT Tolbert notched the other two RBIs in the game with a two-RBI double with the bases loaded in the seventh. The hit gave him eight doubles and 43 RBIs on the season, which extended his team lead in the category over Cortes (37).
Missouri tried to mount a late rally scoring three runs, all earned, in the eighth inning off of relief pitcher Ridge Chapman. The junior gave up two hits and a walk registering only one out. Sophomore Sawyer Bridges allowed two of the runs he inherited to score but pitched 1 2/3 innings without giving up a run of his own on two hits and three strikeouts.
Bridges keeps his team-best 1.46 earned run average after his performance. Row finished the game leading the Gamecocks offensively going 3-for-3 with a run scored, an RBI and a walk. Tolbert also had a multi-hit day going 2-for-3 with a walk.
South Carolina will look to win the series on Sunday and will send sophomore Cody Morris to the mound for the start. First pitch is set for 1:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on SEC Network +.