COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID)– Fifteenth-ranked South Carolina scored four runs in the first three innings on the way to a 4-2 win over Penn State to sweep a three-game series. Highlighting the weekend was sophomore catcher John Jones, who went 8-for-8 (1.000) in the three-game series with two homers, four runs scored, 10 RBI and six walks for an OBP of 1.000 and a slugging percentage of 1.750 vs. the Nittany Lions. He is the only Gamecock player since records going back to 1997 that has accomplished the feat in three weekend starts vs. an opponent. Gamecocks are 8-0 on the year with Penn State dropping to 2-5 on the season.
Junior right-hander Reed Scott pitched 3.1 scoreless innings of relief not allowing a hit and walking only one to earn the victory. He is 1-0 on the year. Junior left-hander Josh Reagan pitched a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts to earn his second save of the year. Penn State starter Justin Hagenman suffered the loss and is 1-1 for the season. He allowed four runs, two earned on seven hits in 5.2 innings.
Penn State took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Conlin Hughes led off with a double off the top of the left field wall and scored on Nick Riotto’s RBI single up the middle. The Gamecocks would get a run back in the bottom half to tie it up after taking advantage of a Penn State error to score an unearned run. With one out with runners on first and second base, Hagenman threw to second for the second out. On the play, PSU shortstop Jim Haley threw wide to first base trying to turn the double play allowing Jonah Bride to score.
The Gamecocks would break ahead 4-1 in the bottom of the third inning. DC Arendas and Dom Thompson-Williams each singled to open the frame. Bride would then set down a sacrifice bunt and Hagenman would throw low and past first basemen Tyler Kendall allowing Arendas to tie the game up. Jones would follow with a RBI single to score a pair of runs. Chris Cullen would drive in the third run with a sacrifice fly to score Bride.
Penn State would get a run back in the fourth on James Coates’ solo home run, his first of the season, cutting the Gamecocks’ lead to two runs.
Jones was 3-for-3 with two RBI with Arendas 2-for-2 with a run scored as well. Bride scored two of the Gamecock runs also.
A three run third inning highlighted by Jones’ two-run single gave the Gamecocks a lead they would never relinquish.
Reed Scott and Josh Reagan combined for 4.1 scoreless innings of relief with just one hit allowed and one walk.
• South Carolina starting pitcher Taylor Widener allowed two runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings with two walk and four strikeouts.
• Through two weeks of action, South Carolina is hitting .337 as a team with a .443 on base percentage. The Gamecocks are fielding .972 with the pitching staff owning a 1.50 team ERA. Opponents are hitting .170 against the Gamecocks.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
“It was a good weekend for us. Penn State gave us all we could handle today. I told their coach after the game that if we had played 15 more innings I don’t know if we would have scratched on Jack Anderson. That kid is on the reliever list as a top reliever for a reason, and I saw why today. He was certainly tough to handle, but we did enough to win. This wasn’t our best game of the year by any stretch. I thought one of the biggest plays in the game, that will probably be forgotten, was when Taylor [Widener] was in some trouble there in the first inning. He bowed his neck and got a big double-play ball. That limited the damage and ultimately was a big difference in the game. Those were three good days for us. You have to win when you don’t play your best ball to have a special season. That’s what I told the guys after the game. I think Penn State will go on to have a really good year in their league. They flashed some arms out there that were pretty good, they competed at the plate and were tough to strike out for the most part. They certainly challenged us. Now we look forward to playing The Citadel on Tuesday.”
Sophomore John Jones
On how it feels to get on base every at bat this weekend… “Succeeding feels good, but it’s over now. I’ll enjoy it later with my team, then move on and get ready for the next game.”
On how he felt about getting a pinch hitter and potentially saving his on-base percentage… “I don’t care about that. You just always have to go up there and compete like you would on any other at bat. You’re just setting yourself up for failure if you’re thinking about failure.”
On his year at junior college and how it helped prepare him for this year… “It was outstanding for me. It was nice to get a year of college under my belt so this wasn’t overwhelming. I wouldn’t say I needed it, but it definitely helped a lot. I got almost 200 at bats. You see great pitching at Florida Junior College. It’s a night and day difference from high school pitching to junior college. I grew as a player and had some great coaches down there that taught me a lot.”
South Carolina is back in action Tuesday in Charleston as they take on The Citadel at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”