South Carolina crushes Winthrop as Wes Clarke’s home run parade continues

Greg Hadley
·3 min read

As South Carolina baseball heads into this weekend’s rivalry series with Clemson, the No. 17 Gamecocks remain undefeated — and junior Wes Clarke remains scorching hot.

Facing Winthrop on Tuesday evening at Founders Park, Clarke crushed three home runs to lead USC to a 12-4 win, the first three-home run game for Carolina since Justin Smoak did so in 2008.

In the season’s first four games, the co-SEC Player of the Week has now hit six home runs to go with a .769 batting average and 2.308 slugging percentage.

All three of Clarke’s long balls Tuesday were solo shots to left field. The first, in the third inning, put South Carolina up 2-0. The second, in the sixth frame, padded Carolina’s lead to 7-3. And the third, in the eighth, pushed the advantage to 10-4

And Clarke wasn’t the only Gamecock to get in on the power parade — the Gamecocks hit seven home runs total, their most in a game since 2011, also against Winthrop. Senior outfielder Andrew Eyster had one in the third inning two batters after Clarke, and sophomore outfielder Braylen Wimmer, junior first baseman David Mendham and junior designated hitter Josiah Sightler all went deep in the eighth inning as well. All seven long balls were solo shots.

On top of those big hits, South Carolina’s bats got some help from Winthrop’s defense, which committed three errors. The Gamecocks’ very first run, to take a 1-0 lead in the second inning, came after Sightler reached on an error, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored when senior second baseman Jeff Heinrich flared a bloop into shallow right-center that the defenders nearly collided diving for.

Then, in the fifth inning with the game knotted at 3-3, Eagles right fielder Jonathan Strauss over-ran a fly ball from Wimmer, letting it drop behind him for a double. After a walk from Clarke, Mendham sent a grounder to first base. Looking to go to second base to start a double play, Winthrop first baseman Andrew Jenner threw the ball high and into left field, letting Wimmer score.

A pair of singles from Sightler and Heinrich followed, plating two more unearned runs.

Clarke’s offensive display Tuesday made up for a little bit of a shaky day on defense, where he started at catcher for the first time this year to give sophomore Colin Burgess a day off. In the fourth inning, freshman Magdiel Cotto walked a pair of batters, then gave up a single to left field. The throw to the plate appeared to have the runner beat, but Clarke couldn’t hold on to the ball and the run scored. In the next at-bat, he allowed a passed ball that scored another run to make it 3-2.

Winthrop briefly tied the game in the fifth inning, as the Eagles got a single and walk, then a ground ball up the middle that hit off senior pitcher John Gilreath and kicked off Heinrich’s glove at second for an error and unearned run. South Carolina quickly went back ahead in the bottom half of the inning and never looked back.

NEXT USC BASEBALL GAME

Who: No. 17 South Carolina (4-0) vs. Clemson (3-0)

When: 4 p.m. Friday

Where: Doug Kingsmore Stadium

Watch: Streaming online on ACC Network Extra via WatchESPN