COLUMBIA, S.C. (The Big Spur) - A day after failing to support the pitching staff, South Carolina put up eight runs in the first two innings on its way to an easy 12-3 win over Northwestern on Saturday afternoon at Founders Park to even the series.
Sophomore Wes Clarke drilled a pair of home runs and totaled seven RBIs, a career high, on the afternoon to pace a Gamecocks (5-1) attack that was 8-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the game.
“The guys bounced back the way we challenged them to do today,” third year head coach Mark Kingston said. “Real good pitching, real good offense, real good defense. That’s how you want to see your team bounce back.”
The Wildcats came out of the gate hot as the first three hitters of the game fired hits off of Gamecocks starting pitcher Brett Kerry. Shawn Goosenberg opened the game doubling inside the third base bag, and then came home on an RBI single by Michael Trautwein. There were two on after a line drive single by Stephen Hrustich, but Kerry was able to navigate out of trouble with a strikeout and ground ball.
The Gamecocks would come right back and erase the deficit and take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
A two-RBI single by Jeff Heinrich opened the scoring for the Gamecocks and later in the inning, George Callil was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score the third run of the frame.
In the second, Clarke hit his third home run of the season, a three-run shot to double South Carolina’s run scoring total. Later in the inning, Callil added a two-RBI single to put his team up 8-1.
“He took a lot of good swings,” Kingston said. “These young hitters are always a work in progress, and you’re trying to figure out what’s going to make them tick. He’s continuing to learn how he needs to prepare. He was obviously very locked in today.”
Kerry wasn’t without blemish the rest of the way. He gave up solo home runs in the fifth and sixth innings, but it was going to take a lot more than that from the visitors to climb back into the game.
Kerry would finish allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out three in his 96-pitch outing.
“That was probably the worst stuff he’s had in the time he’s been here. He threw up after breakfast today, so he was out there on guts,” Kingston said. “He didn’t have his good stuff, but you saw a guy with big guts and a lot of savvy. He found a way to get it done anyway. The fact he lasted six innings, that’s a testament to the kind of competitor he is and the kind of savvy he has.”
Clarke would launch his second home run of the day, a grand slam, in the sixth inning to give the Gamecocks a nine-run lead. He attacked the first pitch he saw from right-hander Jack Dyke for his fourth home run of the season. Clarke finished the game 3-for-4 adding a single to his resume on the afternoon as well.
“Every day I come with the mindset that I’m going to ball out and have my best game,” Clarke said. “After the tough loss yesterday, I had to clear my mind and woke up this morning, got to the field to hit early and it made the difference at the plate today.”
Out of the bullpen, the Gamecocks got scoreless innings from juniors TJ Shook and John Gilreath. Shook struck out a pair in his clean inning of work. Gilreath allowed a pair of singles, but struck out three in a scoreless eighth inning. Freshman Brett Thomas closed out the game with a perfect ninth inning that saw him strike out the final hitter of the game.
South Carolina will look to win the series on Sunday in the finale with first pitch set for 1:30 p.m. at Founders Park. Junior Brannon Jordan will get the start on the mound for the Gamecocks and will go against right-hander Tyler Uberstine, who is 1-0 with a 1.80 earned run average.