Gamecocks blast three homers in win over App State

Gamecocks blast three homers in win over App State

**Story by Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe**

After struggling in a 5-1 loss to Wright State Sunday, South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook was preaching pitch selection. 

He gathered his 5-3 team on Monday and had all the hitters watching video of their swings and their approach at the plate. 

It paid off on Tuesday as the Gamecocks hit three home runs in a 8-4 win over Appalachian State. Chris Cullen hit a three-run homer to get the Gamecocks going in the first inning and Jacob Olson hit two home runs in a 10-hit attack. 

"If we force them to throw it in the strike zone, we've got some big strong, athletic kids who can do some damage," Holbrook said.  "What we have been doing up to this point, we have been swinging at pitches that the best hitters in the world can't hit.

"Our pitch selection has to improve, and I think we really did a good job at that tonight."

With Alex Destino and LT Tolbert on base in the first, Chris Cullen, who had been struggling at the plate, launched a three-run homer over the left-field fence to give South Carolina a 3-0 lead. 

SC-App State box

Appalachian State played a bit of long ball itself, with Matt Vernon hitting a three-run homer in the third inning to tie the game. 

But Olson struck with a solo shot in the fifth to put South Carolina back on top. The Gamecocks scored another run in the inning on an error, a base hit by Matt Williams and a sac fly by Destino. 

ASU hit another home run in the sixth to cut the score to 5-4, but Olson's second homer in the seventh stretched the lead to two. Tolbert, who had three hits, added a two-run single in the eighth for the final margin. 

Tolbert said the extra work on Monday helped the whole team. 

"We watched a lot of video. Each one of us went through every at-bat we've had this year and just watched what pitches we are swinging at and what counts we are hitting the ball in, and I think that was real beneficial," he said. "It just kinda lets us see that when we get in good counts, we've got to keep putting aggressive swings on them, and when we get two strikes we've got to still make them throw strikes to us and work to put the ball in play."

Olson, who entered the game hitting .308, leads the team with three home runs. And more could be coming.

"Olson is so strong and athletic and he brings us an attitude," Holbrook said. "He is an explosive athlete and he can hit them a long way. It's good to see him swinging the bat." 

Cullen, one of the team's best hitters in the fall, came into the game hitting just .125. He said a couple of days off against Wright State helped clear his head and get him going offensively.  

"I think that's what I needed. Really, it was just all upstairs in the head," he said. "I just sat back from the game a second and tried not to think too much. Tonight I just went up there and cleared everything out of my head and just had fun up there."

The Gamecocks had just 10 hits, but struck out only once. Coming into the game, they had struck out 52 times in 262 at-bats over eight games. 

"We were much better," Holbrook said. "We did some things yesterday and I think they absorbed some of the things they witnessed on video and they tried like crazy to apply it today against a really good pitcher. I'm proud of what we did in the batter's box tonight." 

Sophomore Graham Lawson started on the mound for the Gamecocks and gave up three runs on four hits over 3.1 innings. Tyler Haswell pitched a scoreless inning before turning the game over to late-inning aces Josh Reagan and Tyler Johnson. 

Reagan got the win after giving up one run and one hit over 2.1 innings, while Johnson struck out five of the six batters he faced to earn the save. 

The Gamecocks, 6-3, needed the win heading into a big weekend series against Clemson. 

"A big win for us," Holbrook said. "Coming off a loss on Sunday, it was a pretty sticky situation. … I feel good about the win and feel good about some of the things we did offensively."