COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sophomore right-hander Clarke Schmidt allowed just two runs in six innings of work to earn his seventh win of the season and LT Tolbert homered and tied a career-high with three runs driven in as sixth ranked South Carolina held on to a 7-6 win over Tennessee on Friday night at Founders Park. The Gamecocks are now 26-5 and 8-2 in the SEC with Tennessee 18-12 and 3-7 in league play.
Schmidt struck out 10 and walked three in six innings to improve to 7-1 for the season. He allowed two runs, one earned, on nine hits. Junior left-hander Josh Reagan pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn his ninth save of the season. Tennessee starter Aaron Soto suffered the loss and is 3-1 on the year. He allowed seven runs, six earned, on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts in five innings.
South Carolina went ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the third despite not tallying a hit in the frame. With one out and Gene Cone on first base, Jonah Bride knocked a grounder to second baseman Derek Lance. On the play, Lance threw over for the force, but on the play, his throw was muffed by shortstop Max Bartlett, putting runners on the corners. John Jones followed with a grounder down the third base line. After getting the force at second base, Lance looked to turn the double play, but his low throw went past first baseman Vincent Jackson and scored Cone.
An unearned run for Tennessee would tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth. Tyler Schultz knocked a single to left field with one out, stole second base and advanced to third on Chris Cullen’s throwing error on the stolen base. With two outs, Derek Lance hit an infield single up the middle to score Schultz.
Carolina regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth on LT Tolbert’s two-run homer. After Madison Stokes led off with a single, Tolbert launched his second homer of the year over the right field wall to give Carolina a 3-1 advantage.
Tennessee answered in the top of the fifth with a run to cut Carolina’s lead down to a run. Nick Senzel and Vincent Jackson each singled and Jordan Rodgers doubled to the gap in right-center to score Senzel. Schmidt limited the damage though and kept the Volunteers at bay with just the one run, despite runners on second and third base and no outs. A tapper back to Schmidt on a grounder, a fielder’s choice to get Jackson at home plate and a strikeout kept the Gamecocks ahead with a 3-2 lead.
Carolina rode the momentum from Schmidt’s effort into the bottom of fifth as Carolina scored three runs to go ahead 6-2. With two outs and the bases loaded, Tolbert walked to score a run and TJ Hopkins followed with a ground rule double to center field to score a pair. Carolina would add a run in the sixth inning on a RBI single by Dom Thompson-Williams.
Tennessee mounted a rally with four runs in the top of the seventh inning to cut Carolina’s lead to a run. Jordan Rodgers tallied a RBI single with Derek Lance driving in two runs with a two-out RBI base hitt followed by another two-out RBI hit from Benito Santiago.
The Volunteers threatened again in the eighth inning loading the bases with two outs. Max Bartlett hit a tapper just in front of home plate that catcher Chris Cullen was able to corral and throw down to first base to keep Carolina ahead by a run. Tennessee would look to tie it one more time in the ninth as Lance led off with a walk. With two outs and Lance on third base, Carolina elected to intentionally walk Nick Senzel to face Vincent Jackson. Reagan would preserve the Gamecock victory as he coaxed Jackson to fly out to left to end the game.
Schmidt limited Tennessee to just one run after three consecutive hits to open the fifth inning and runners on second and third and no outs to keep Carolina ahead.
Despite being out-hit 14-8, the Gamecocks limited the damage as the Volunteers left 16 on base in the contest.
Gene Cone extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a base hit.
Tolbert and Hopkins combined for five runs batted in on the evening. Jonah Bride went 2-for-3 and had the only multi-hit game for the evening for the Gamecocks.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
We feel very fortunate to have won the game. I thought Tennessee really battled and competed and obviously out-hit us 14-8. I think the whole key to the game that enabled us to win was the fifth inning holding them to one run, they had second and third and nobody out after scoring one run already. Clarke Schmidt bowed his neck and threw some of the best pitches that he threw all night and limited them to one run after they had second and third and nobody out. That was a big part of the game for me. Then we made a couple big defensive plays in the top of the eighth with the bases loaded. That play Cullen made that was very impressive for a freshman to make that play with the game on the line. It was one we held on to. You think you would feel comfortable up 7-2, I didn’t feel comfortable at all with the way they were swinging the bat, the way the ball was traveling and as good as some of their hitters are. But we found a way to win and I’m proud of my team for that. Hopefully we will come to the park tomorrow and play a little bit better. Do some things a little bit better than we did tonight. All in all, I feel very fortunate to sit up here having won that game. I thought many instances from an offensive standpoint Tennessee could have easily won that game and maybe deserved to win. But my kids battled and competed when adversity struck they didn’t get defeated and handled it the right way and we found a way win.