**Story by Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe**
For seven innings Wednesday night, South Carolina looked like it was sleep-walking through a mid-week game and was in serious jeopardy of getting upset by Winthrop.
But the No. 7 Gamecocks weren't worried, and they woke up just in time to rally and beat the Eagles 8-6.
South Carolina fell behind 4-0 in the first inning and trailed 6-4 entering the eighth. But it rallied for four runs on two big hits, an error and some aggressive base running to improve to 9-5.
"I'm really proud of my team," coach Chad Holbrook said. "We faced adversity. The first inning was not a good one obviously, but none of them hung their heads in the dugout and they felt like they were going to find a way to get back into the game and win, and they did."
Winthrop held a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning when South Carolina's offense finally woke up and the Eagles self-destructed.
DH Alex Destino led off the inning with his third home run of the season, a shot over the right-center field wall. Jonah Bride followed with a double into the left-field corner to put the tying run at second.
That's when Winthrop fell apart. Chris Cullen attempted to bunt Bride to third but was hit by a pitch. Madison Stokes then laid down a bunt, but the Winthrop pitcher fielded it and threw it into right field, allowing Bride to score the tying run.
With runners on second and third, Carlos Cortes pinch hit for Danny Blair and lifted the first pitch into left field for a sac fly to score Cullen with the go-ahead run. The Gamecocks made it 8-6 when Stokes moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.
"Our (mindset) in dugout was that we weren't going to lose this game," Destino said. "Even when we were down four runs, it's pretty easy to get down and count yourself out, but we don't like to lose at home. A team effort brought us back."
Destino was coming off a rough series against Clemson and had struck out twice against Winthrop when he stepped to the plate to lead off the eighth inning. He drilled a 2-2 pitch into the South Carolina bullpen to cut the lead to 6-5.
"I was 0-for-3, two punch outs, it's pretty easy to get down on yourself," Destino said. "That's kinda something you have to learn in the DH role. When the game is not going your way, you have to just kinda stay up and know that you could potentially contribute at the end of the game. Busch (assistant coach Brian Buscher) was telling me in the dugout, 'He said, you ready to win this game for us?' And I said, 'Yes sir,' and I got a pitch I could elevate and was lucky enough to put one out."
South Carolina continued to have trouble finding mid-week starters on the mound. A day after redshirt freshman Cody Morris pitched three scoreless innings in his first career start, junior right-hander Brandon Murray didn't make it out of the first inning.
Murray gave up a hit, a walk and a bloop single before Hunter Lipscomb cleared the bases with a triple into the right-field corner. Grant English singled to drive in another run and give Winthrop a 4-0 lead. True freshman Colby Lee replaced Murray and got the Gamecocks out of the inning.
Lee pitched well in his first career outing, giving up just one run on three hits in 3.2 innings. He struck out four.
Reed Scott surrendered a run in his first inning of work in the fifth, but settled down after that and shut out Winthrop over the next four innings. He gave up just one run on four hits over five innings and struck out eight. He struck out the side in the ninth to end the game.
"Colby has got a great arm and it was his first time out there and he made some pitches there that were extremely important when the game could have gotten away from us," Holbrook said. "I am proud of Colby, and Reed was fantastic at the end."
Winthrop added a run off Lee in the third and a run off Scott in the fifth, while the Gamecocks had trouble getting their bats going.
South Carolina scored a run in the first when TJ Hopkins walked, went to third on LT Tolbert's single and scored on Matt Williams' sac fly. It scored two in the fourth when Jonah Bride singled and Chris Cullen followed with his third home run and his second in two games.
South Carolina cut the lead to 6-4 in the seventh when Hopkins doubled and Williams extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an RBI single.
With the game on the line, it erupted for four runs in the eighth to take control of the game.
"We kept our wits about us and, lo and behold, we got a big inning there in the eighth and got contributions from a lot of different people," Holbrook said. "It was a big win for us because we faced adversity and we found a way to win."