South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston said last Sunday when the Gamecocks rallied to top Mississippi State in extra innings that he hoped the win would spark a momentum shift for his squad, the loser of three consecutive series.
A week later, the momentum has indeed firmly shifted in favor of the Gamecocks, as they downed Kentucky 11-6 on Sunday to clinch the series sweep, their first in Lexington since 2002.
The sweep is USC’s first against anyone since March, and the 32 combined runs scored in these past three games were the team’s most in any series this year.
That latter stat is a welcome change for Kingston, who has noted his lineup’s struggles when discussing the team’s overall issues through late April and early May. The Gamecocks entered this series ranked in the bottom four of the SEC in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, struggling to support the team’s pitching staff.
That wasn’t the case Sunday, as Carolina staked redshirt junior starter Thomas Farr to a 3-0 lead in the third inning and never trailed again. Farr, for his part, went 5 2/3 innings and gave up just two earned runs, earning his first win on the mound since March 5, when the season was just three weeks old.
In fact, South Carolina never trailed all weekend against the Wildcats, in large part thanks to the efforts of senior outfielder Andrew Eyster, who finished the series 8 for 12 at the plate with 10 RBIs and 4 runs. It was Eyster who kicked off the scoring Sunday, connecting on an RBI double in the third to plate one run, then coming around himself when junior Josiah Sightler homered to left field.
The very next inning, the Gamecocks tacked on three more runs, first loading the bases off a pair of singles and a hit batter, then getting a sacrifice fly from Eyster and a double in the gap from junior Wes Clarke.
Sophomore Braylen Wimmer, who hit two home runs in the series’ first two games, got the chance to flash his speed in the fifth inning, getting hit by a pitch, stealing second and then advancing to third and scoring off a throwing error.
Four more singles in the seventh inning, sandwiched around another hit batter, pushed three more runs across, with Eyster and junior Brady Allen both picking up RBIs, and Eyster delivered yet another run-scoring hit in the ninth to cap the scoring.
With Sunday’s victory, the Gamecocks are assured at least a .500 finish in SEC play for the first time since 2018. Since 2000, the Gamecocks have never missed an NCAA tournament when posting at least 15 SEC wins.
Next South Carolina baseball game
Who: No. 25 South Carolina vs. Appalachian State
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Founders Park
Watch: Streaming online on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN
Clemson drops weekend series
Florida State scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday to lift the Seminoles to a 9-6 win over Clemson at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee.
FSU, which won the series 2-1, improved to 28-19 overall and 19-14 in the ACC. The Tigers (24-23, 16-17) lost Friday’s opener 8-3 before bouncing back to win 9-5 Saturday.
Clemson now closes the 2021 regular season with a series against Duke that starts Thursday and could greatly impact the team’s NCAA chances. The Tigers were No. 48 in the RPI rankings through Saturday’s games.