Opening Day is always special, but honoring the late Bill "Oot Oot" Golding made the win even more memorable for South Carolina. The Gamecocks, which started the game with the sellout crowd of 8,242 fans yelling Golding's signature rally cry, earned a 7-1 victory over UNC Greensboro on Friday evening at Founders Park.
Sophomore TJ Hopkins led off the game with a double which led to two first-inning runs and the Gamecocks (1-0) didn't look back. Hopkins paced his team with a 3-for-4 day, which included two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Junior Clarke Schmidt put up a commanding performance on the mound throwing 6 1/3 innings allowing one run on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts. The only run of the game for the Spartans (0-1) was a solo home run.
"TJ was special and Danny had a really nice game," fifth-year head coach Chad Holbrook said. "Obviously we had to play well against a really good team, and I'm impressed with their guys. We have to be at the top of our game to have a successful weekend, and we got off to a good start tonight."
The pitching staff has received most of the preseason press and take nothing away from their performance in the season-opener, but the hitters showed they shouldn't be forgotten.
The Gamecocks tallied 11 hits, which included multi-hit games from four players. Sophomore Danny Blair matched Hopkins' three-hit total, which included a pair of infield singles, a run scored and an RBI. Two of his hits came with two strikes.
COLUMBIA, SC (TheBigSpur.com) -- Sophomore Jacob Olson had a two-hit game in his first career appearance for the Gamecocks while designated hitter Alex Destino was 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs. It was Destino's tomahawk single in the bottom of the first inning that plated the first Gamecocks run of the year.
"You get that first hit and get the nerves out and adrenaline going," Destino said. "Last year, it took a while for me to get going. Anytime you can get started and have a confident mindset, it's definitely beneficial."
After allowing the leadoff home run in the fourth inning, Schmidt gave up just one more hit in his final 2 2/3 innings of work. He threw 81 pitches on the evening, which fell right in the range of the 80-85 the coaching staff planned for him entering the night.
"We had a great crowd and being able to pitch in front of them was a lot of fun," Schmidt said. "Early in the first inning, you get a little butterflies and jitters on opening day but after that first pitch, it's all coasting after that."
Senior Colie Bowers, who couldn't quite find his place on the staff last season, was dominant out of the bullpen throwing 2 1/3 shutout innings allowing one hit. He faced the minimum earning a ground ball double play and also struck out the first four hitters he faced.
"Colie was terrific," Holbrook said. "He never really found his command last year but he's a year older, more comfortable and his changeup was terrific. When he works ahead, he's awfully tough. He was certainly ahead today and threw the ball extremely well."
South Carolina faced five different pitchers for the Spartans and scored off three of them. Starting pitcher Jack Maynard suffered the loss allowing five runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings pitched.
Bowers capped off a special Opening Day, and Bill Golding wasn't forgotten afterwards.
"He was a special fan and it's a special family," Holbrook said. "They were into every pitch in every game. Our players knew it, and he was a special person and special fan. I thought it was a really nice touch. The helmets were great, and I heard 'Oot Oots' throughout the game. I think that will be going on for years and years at the park."
The same two teams will meet on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. Junior Wil Crowe will get the start on the mound for the Gamecocks. The Sunday series finale is set for 1:30 p.m. and each game will be streamed on SEC Network +.