**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**
Photo gallery (photos by Allen Sharpe)
South Carolina pitcher John Parke walked off the field at LSU an unhappy man on Sunday. He had just given up the game-winning hit to the Tigers in the 10th inning that sealed the Gamecocks' sixth-straight SEC series loss.
The next day, the junior talked a while with senior Josh Reagan and tried to clear his mind from the tough weekend. He then sent a text to pitching coach Jerry Meyers telling him that he wanted another chance – soon.
Parke received that chance on Tuesday against Presbyterian and turned it into a career night.
He pitched a career-high 4.1 innings of relief, giving up just one run on two hits to pick up the victory in the 4-3 defeat of Presbyterian.
"The curveball was probably the best I've ever had in my entire life," said Parke, who sat down the final six Presbyterian batters to close out the game. "It was nice to give our bullpen some rest. Tyler Johnson was warming up, and I felt bad. I wanted to give him the night off. He deserves it for sure."
The Blue Hose (24-25) momentarily took a lead in the seventh inning, but in the bottom of the frame Alex Destino blasted a game-tying home run and the Gamecocks would take the lead for good later in the inning.
It was Destino's third homer in four games.
"He looks more relaxed," head coach Chad Holbrook said of Destino. "He looks more comfortable. He's at peace with himself instead of fighting himself when he had that tough stretch."
South Carolina (28-19) jumped out to an early lead to start the game. Leadoff hitter T.J. Hopkins ripped a double to start the bottom of the first, and would score on a RBI groundout by Carlos Cortes to give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead after one inning.
Presbyterian was able to tie the game in the fourth, thanks to a leadoff double of its own. T.J. Richardson drilled a two-bagger to deep right field that Jacob Olson was almost able to come up with. However, the ball popped out of Olson's glove, and Richardson would score on a single by Nick Guimbarda to tie the game at one.
Gamecock starting pitcher Cody Morris did a good job limiting the damage to just one run as he escaped a two-on, one-out situation with a strikeout and fielder's choice.
That lead did not last long. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Ross Grosvenor was hit by a pitch. Destino then sneaked a single into right field, and Grosvenor hustled all the way to third while Destino took second on the throw back. Jonah Bride's sacrifice fly to right-center gave South Carolina the 2-1 lead.
The seesaw affair continued when the Blue Hose immediately tied the game again in the top of the fifth. With one out, Glen Casaceli singled off of Morris' glove into centerfield before stealing second base. Casaceli took third on a passed ball by catcher John Jones and came home on a run-scoring single by Richardson.
That would be the last at-bat for Morris, who gave up two runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings to go with three strikeouts. Parke relieved him, and coaxed a strikeout to end the inning.
Parke started off strong on Tuesday, striking out four of his first five batters faced. However, Presbyterian executed a beautiful hit-and-run to get a runner into scoring position. Tyler Weyenberg singled with one out and Casaceli dropped a single into right field on the hit-and-run, putting runners on the corners with one out. Brett Auckland ripped a ball to first base, and Matt Williams tried to go for the double play to end the inning, but came up just short, allowing a Blue Hose runner to score to make it a 3-2 game.
As was the case all night, the lead didn't last. Destino led off the bottom of the seventh with a monster home run into the bullpen in right-center field to tie the game at three. His hot bat gave South Carolina a critical run, and the Gamecocks would proceed to load the bases with no outs in the frame.
Madison Stokes grounded into a force play at home plate for the first out, and Hopkins struck out for out No. 2. The Gamecocks were finally able to scratch out a run on a wild pitch that gave them a 4-3 lead after seven innings.
"Any time you get a close win like that, especially with how they've been lately for us, that's good," Destino said.
After a bumpy seventh inning, Parke responded with an eight-pitch inning in the eighth to squash any momentum Presbyterian had.
"He commanded his fastball," Holbrook said of Parke. "He felt good, hit his spots (and) dumped his breaking ball in there. They had to honor more than just his fastball. It was as good as I've ever seen him throw."
Destino racked up three hits while both Olson and Stokes added two apiece. Parke's win improved his record to 2-1 on the year.
South Carolina returns on action on Wednesday with another midweek contest, this time against a very good Liberty team. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. and can be streamed online using SEC Network+.