Photo gallery (photos by Allen Sharpe)
Box Score (South Carolina Athletics Media Relations)
Coming off a tough series loss to rival Clemson this past weekend, South Carolina needed a good performance against The Citadel on Tuesday, March 7, to put those memories behind.
The Gamecocks did just that and took out their frustration on the Bulldogs, posting three home runs and 15 hits in a 12-5 drubbing at Founders Park.
"I'm most proud of our players for bouncing back and coming back to the park with the right attitude today after a very difficult loss on Sunday," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "They had a lot of energy yesterday when they came down, and they were ready to get back out on the field. I think that showed tonight."
Freshman Cody Morris received his first career start and struck out six in three solid innings to get South Carolina off to a good start.
"It was exciting to get back out there," said Morris, who underwent Tommy John surgery before arriving at South Carolina and hadn't pitched since 2015.
On the offensive side, Chris Cullen hit a home run and drove in a career-high five RBI while T.J. Hopkins added two homers and four RBI. After struggling to bring around runs in the Clemson series, the Gamecocks (8-5) did an excellent job of playing small ball to start Tuesday's game.
Hopkins led off the game with a single that bounced off a sliding second baseman. He would steal second, advance to third on a groundout and score on a sharp RBI single by Jacob Olson.
South Carolina added another run when Olson stole second base and came home shortly thereafter on another RBI single by Jonah Bride as the Gamecocks held a 2-0 lead after the first inning.
South Carolina started playing long ball in the fourth inning. With one out, LT Tolbert smashed a ball off the right field wall. It ended up going for a triple, but Cullen did him one better. The sophomore catcher hit a long two-run shot that cleared the bullpen in left-center field and gave the Gamecocks a 4-1 lead.
Two batters later, Hopkins sent a moon shot over the left field wall for a solo homer that made it 5-1 South Carolina after four innings.
As he was being asked if the Gamecocks tried to take advantage of the windy conditions at Founders Park on Tuesday, a smile crept onto Cullen's face.
"Oh, absolutely," Cullen replied. "Any time the wind is blowing out, everyone gets a little excited. We weren't trying to hit home runs, (but) we saw some pitches up, and fortunately for us we all put some pretty good swings on the ball."
The Gamecocks added another dinger to their box score and batted around in the fifth inning. First, Cullen added a two-run single to his earlier two-run homer to give South Carolina more breathing room. Then, with two outs, Hopkins sent an off-speed offering deep over the left field wall for his second home run of the day. It was a three-run shot that gave the Gamecocks a commanding 11-1 lead.
The two homers for Hopkins on the night were more than he had in the first year-plus of his career. Cullen picked up RBI No. 5 in the sixth inning on a single that just missed the shortstop's glove to extend his career night.
However, the Bulldogs (3-8) made the score more respectable in the seventh inning off relievers Graham Lawson and John Parke. First, Lawson gave up a two-run homer to Barrett Charpia before he was pulled from the game.
Parke entered the contest and gave up a walk and RBI single before William Kinney hit a sacrifice fly that cut South Carolina's lead down to 12-5 as the two teams entered the seventh inning stretch.
Parke was able to settle down and close out the victory for the Gamecocks, giving some much-needed rest to the bullpen.
Cullen went 3-for-4 with a run scored and five RBI while Hopkins added three hits, three runs scored and four RBI. The offensive breakout was much-needed for the Gamecocks, and they hope they can carry that momentum throughout the rest of the week.
"It was good to see everyone go up to the plate with a sense of urgency and aggressiveness," Cullen said. "I think that mindset kind of put us over the top and allowed us to get our base hits and put some runs across."
The Gamecocks return to action on Wednesday with another home contest against instate foe Winthrop. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be streamed online using SEC Network+.
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**