**Story by Willie T. Smith III/Photos by Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dillworth**
It was almost as if Wil Crowe hadn’t missed any time with the South Carolina baseball team.
After taking a couple innings to regain his consistency, the junior right-hander was dominant during his five-inning starting stint in the Gamecocks' 5-1 win over UNCG Saturday in front of a second straight sellout crowd of 8,242 at Founders Park.
Crowe, who missed the 2016 season following Tommy John surgery, shut the Spartans down, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out seven.
That was more than enough when Reed Scott’s relief performance was thrown into the mix to extend the Gamecocks record to 2-0.
“Will was terrific,” said USC coach Chad Holbrook. “It was great to see him back out there after a long rehabilitation. He didn’t disappoint. He threw great against a very good hitting team.”
The outing was Crowe’s first since having his 2015 season cut short due to surgery.
“It was great, it was a good feeling,” Crowe said of returning to the mound. “I felt like I did a pretty good job. I was just glad to be back out here wearing the Gamecock uniform."
Crowe appeared a little nervous in the first two innings, allowing all three hits.
He was in control after that, holding the Spartans hitless during the remainder of his outing.
“He was juiced,” Holbrook said of Crowe’s mentality entering the game. “He was ready to go. He’s always that way. He’s bouncing off the walls on days he’s pitching. He had a lot of nervous energy and rightfully so. He has put a lot into this.”
While Crowe and Scott were handling things on the mound, it took the USC bats some time to come around.
The Gamecocks pushed across a run in the third on an RBI single to left by second baseman Justin Row that scored right fielder TJ Hopkins.
South Carolina scored three more runs in the fifth.
Left fielder Alex Destino knocked in two runs on two hits, while center fielder Danny Blair knocked in and scored a run, also on two hits.
Scott allowed one unearned run on two hits in the final four innings, while striking out three.
The spotlight following the game was on Crowe.
“It’s good to get back out here and help the team win again," Crowe said. “It’s good to be able to do my part and be a part of something special.”
Crowe’s performance also served as a source of inspiration to his teammate.
“He’s phenomenal,” Destino said of Crowe. “I speak on behalf of everybody, the fans, it’s great to have him back. … Will is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. He’s really passionate about everything he does.
“To see him go out there and do his thing today, the success he had, it’s kind of the pinnacle of what he has been working for lately. We all had to watch him go through his rehab when he told us he was going have to get Tommy John. Seeing him cry, that was hard for a lot of us.
“Seeing him go out there and just dominate against what was said to be an extremely good offense, that was fun to watch.”
The Gamecocks finish their series against UNCG Sunday at 1:30 p. m. when sophomore right-hander Adam Hill goes against Spartan sophomore right-hander Matt Frisbee.