The pre-game news Tuesday night was not good for the Gamecocks. Already down one outfielder - right fielder Adam Matthews - due to injury, All-American centerfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. removed himself from the line-up after hurting his back lifting weights Monday. The severity of the injury is not known and Bradley, Jr. was seeing a doctor during the post-game press conference.
With two starting outfielders out and sophomore right-hander Patrick Sullivan making his first career start, this had all the makings of a potential in-state upset from USC Upstate.
But any worry of that was quickly erased when South Carolina scored nine runs in the first three innings to allow Sullivan (1-0) to comfortably pitch a career-high five innings and earn the win. Sullivan gave up just an earned run and two hits while striking out a career-high six batters and walking two.
"It was a great opportunity," Sullivan said. "I was glad to finally get out there and get a chance. I threw well. I got behind a couple hitters though. I probably could have thrown a lot more strikes. It was a great experience and hopefully get another chance."
After surrendering an RBI-single with two outs in the second inning, Sullivan retired the final 10 batters he faced before giving way to junior left-hander Logan Munson.
"I was very, very happy for him," head coach Ray Tanner said. "He is a young man who is a local product, who has been in the program for a while and has worked extremely hard. He's been the consummate team guy. He's probably deserved some opportunities a lot earlier than today, but he never complained about lack of appearances or opportunities. He waited patiently. I certainly thought he deserved to be out there tonight. He looked good; he was comfortable."
The Carolina hitters gave the pitching staff all the run support it needed and more as all nine Carolina starting position players had hits including a career high five from Christian Walker. Walker went 5-for-6 with a grand slam and five RBIs.
Peter Mooney, Adrian Morales, Brady Thomas, Robert Beary and Evan Marzilli all had two hits apiece.
Nothing seemed to go right from the beginning for Upstate starting pitcher Scott DeCecco, who took the loss (3-3). The freshman left-hander walked Peter Mooney to lead off the game. After getting ahead 0-2 on Scott Wingo, DeCecco served a mistake-pitch over the heart of the plate that Wingo turned on and launched over the right field wall.
Wingo's third homer of the year gave Carolina an early 2-0 lead but the Gamecocks weren't done yet. A line-drive single into left-center by Walker on the very next pitch followed by a wild pitch put Walker in scoring position. Morales then singled Walker home on a hot shot that the second baseman couldn't field. After a Jake Williams groundout, Thomas blooped a single into right field to score Morales and put the Gamecocks up 5-0.
DeCecco recorded just a single out before giving way to Chris Knauff. Knauff pitched the next 5.2 innings and gave up five earned runs on seven hits.
Carolina scored two runs each in the third and fourth innings, one in the sixth, six in the seventh and two in the eighth.
"I'm very pleased with our guys tonight coming out of the blocks," Tanner said. "I thought we had great awareness for a midweek game. ... We had a bunch of hits tonight, some good things happened for us, and we were able to get some guys in the game. It was a great win in the middle of the week."
Upstate reliever Ran Fern came in to pitch the seventh inning but failed to record an out after hitting a batter and walking two. He was charged with three earned runs. Jake Waller pitched the final two innings and gave up five earned runs on eight hits.
Munson pitched two scoreless innings giving up just two hits. Adam Westmoreland pitched the eighth inning for Carolina giving up three hits and an earned run. Will Casey pitched a scoreless ninth.
With the win Carolina improves to 23-5 on the season. The Gamecocks are next in action Thursday night in the first of a three-game series at Tennessee. Michael Roth gets the start with first pitch scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. Injury Update
Ray Tanner after the game:
He's going to travel. I didn't even know [earlier] today that he had an issue yesterday - he didn't tell anybody. It was an easy, optional day in the weight room. A lot of those guys like to try to maintain when they have an opportunity. With our schedules it's hard to get an ample amount of lifts in so a lot of those guys will go in on an off day to get some work done. Apparently he just did an RDL [Click Link for info on the exercise] lift and it just caught him a little bit in his back.
I was actually out at a doctor's appointment this afternoon and I get a call that his back is bothering him and he was on his way to the training room. So when I got back over here, he said he thought he was fine. He was swinging and everything but just bending over might be an issue for him. We laughed and said well you're not playing short or second so you should be okay.
But his BP was okay. He took BP, a few swings in batting practice - it wasn't bad. It may not (have been) as comfortable as normal. He seemed he might be able to get through it. He seemed to be happy with batting practice. He started jogging to the outfield and got to the first base coach's box, it was all over. He said it was too much for him.
He's seeing a doctor right now. I guess he's day-to-day. I'm somewhat optimistic, that being said, I don't know, I don't know if he's going to be shut down or if he's going to be able to play or not, I don't know.