Gamecocks cap off a unique Opening Day with solid victory

Gamecocks cap off a unique Opening Day with solid victory

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Box Score (South Carolina Athletics Media Relations) 

Opening Day is always an exciting time for any team, but it's even better when you're able to pick up a victory.

Friday, Feb. 17, was a good day all around for the South Carolina baseball team. The Gamecocks jumped out to an early lead and dispatched UNC Greensboro by a final score of 7-1 in the first game of the 2017 season.

"It's always an exciting day," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "There's always excitement and a lot of energy. (The players) probably couldn't sleep last night." 

Fans were out hours before the game tailgating and preparing for another year, and there was an announced crowd of 8,242, the 49th sellout at Founders Park. 

South Carolina has one of the best stadiums in the entire nation and have long had a tremendous fan base that loves Gamecock baseball.

"It was great coming back out here," said Alex Destino, who had two hits, two RBI and a run scored in the win. "This place was packed out." 

The Gamecocks have been practicing since last fall for this moment. To finally get away form the intrasquad scrimmages and face another team is a glorious feeling. It was easy to tell that South Carolina was amped up for the game against UNC Greensboro. 

The Gamecocks quickly scored two runs, and plated four more in the bottom of the fourth after the Spartans registered a solo home run in the top of the inning. From there, South Carolina was able to cruise to the victory.

Schmidt, offense lead Gamecocks on Opening Day

"It was a good atmosphere, and I really missed the fans," said TJ Hopkins, who went 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI for South Carolina. "We played well, good defense, hit the ball pretty well (and) it was just an overall good day." 

What made this Opening Day even more special was the fact that the Gamecocks honored a very special fan. Superfan Bill Golding passed away a week before the season began, and was one of the biggest South Carolina fans around. His trademark hardhat covered with stickers and "Oot, Oot" chant became famous around Founders Park. 

There was a moment of silence followed by the crowd collectively shouting "Oot, Oot" before the game began. 

Holbrook and the players definitely knew who Golding was, and the Opening Day experience was an unforgettable one.

"This is going to go down as a top-three baseball experience for me," Destino said. "Opening Day here is pretty unique (and) honoring Bill before the game, that was pretty cool. Today was hard to beat, no doubt." 

There are 55 more regular season games for the Gamecocks to play, but none of them will be quite the same as the first one.

"There's only one Opening Day per year, and you're starting a journey with a group of young men that's put in a lot of time and effort and a lot of work," Holbrook said. "It's just an exciting time. Something very, very unique about the feeling you have around Opening Day. It's here." 

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**