TUSCALOOSA, ALA. (USC SID) – SEC EASTERN DIVISION CHAMPIONS! Sixth ranked South Carolina belted out 15 hits on the way to a 9-7 win over Alabama to sweep a three-game SEC series and clinch a top two seed in next week’s SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks are 42-13 and 20-9 in the SEC with Alabama 31-24 and 15-15 in league play. This marks the seventh SEC Eastern Division title for the Gamecocks (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2011, 2012, 2016).
Junior right-hander Taylor Widener earned the win in relief allowing two runs on six hits in 3.2 innings with six strikeouts. He is 4-2 on the year. Sophomore right-hander Tyler Johnson pitched 1.2 perfect innings of relief for his ninth save including his third of the series. Alabama reliever Dylan Duarte suffered the loss. He is 2-3 for the year after allowing two runs on three hits in an inning.
South Carolina wasted no time with three runs in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. Gene Cone led off the game with a base hit up the middle and scored on Dom Thompson-Williams’ RBI infield single down the third base line. After a base hit to right field by Jonah Bride gave the Gamecocks a pair of runners, Madison Stokes delivered with a two-run double to right field.
Alabama answered in the bottom of the third inning with four runs with two outs to go ahead 4-3 on the Gamecocks. With two outs and no men on base, Keith Holcombe reached base on an infield single. After a two-out walk to Cobie Vance, the Crimson Tide would cut the deficit to a run on Georgie Salem’s two-out double to left-center. That was followed by a two-run homer to left field off the bat of Chandler Taylor, his ninth homer of the season to put Alabama ahead by a run.
Carolina responded with a run in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 4-4. Stokes doubled down the left field line for his second double of the afternoon and scored on John Jones’ RBI base hit up the middle.
The Gamecocks reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth inning. Destino and Thompson-Williams each singled with one out. After a walk to Madison Stokes with two outs loaded the bases, Jones knocked a two-run single into left field giving the Gamecocks a 6-4 lead.
Alabama came back with a run in the bottom of the fifth to cut Carolina’s lead to a run. Holcombe, Vance and Salem all singled with Salem driving in Holcombe with a base hit to left field.
South Carolina extended the lead back to a pair with a run in the seventh inning despite no hits in the frame. Thompson-Williams walked with one out, Bride was hit by a pitch and Stokes walked to load the bases. Jones would just miss a grand slam as he flew out to deep right-center for a sacrifice fly to score Thompson-Williams and give the Gamecocks a 7-5 lead.
Alabama scratched across a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Holcombe led off with a base hit and advanced to third on Salem’s one-out single to right field. Chandler Taylor’s one-out RBI single, a high chopper over the head of Stokes at first base, scored Holcombe.
The Gamecocks answered again in the eighth to go ahead 8-6. Marcus Mooney reached base with two outs on a fielding error and then scored as a shallow fly ball by Alex Destino fell into right-center for a base hit scoring Mooney from first base.
After Alabama plated across a run in the bottom of the eighth to creep within a run at 8-7, the Gamecocks got a big insurance run in the top of the ninth. Bride led off with a single and with two outs scored on TJ Hopkins two-out RBI single to left-center give Carolina the 9-7 lead. Johnson would come on in the bottom of the ninth and retire all three batters he faced to preserve the Carolina victory.
Jones’ two-run single in the top of the fifth gave the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish.
All nine Gamecock starters had a hit on the way to a 15-hit afternoon at the plate.
Six Gamecocks had multi-hit games. Stokes finished 7-for-9 at the plate this weekend and went 2-for-2 on Saturday with two doubles, a pair of RBI and a run scored. Jones was 2-for-3 with four runs batted in. Destino went 2-for-5 with a run scored and a RBI with Thompson-Williams 2-for-3 with a RBI, two walks and three runs scored as well. Bride finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Hopkins was 2-for-5 with a RBI.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
It’s an awesome day for our team, our program and our kids. We kind of stayed the course, kept playing, played hard and today was, in a nutshell, our team all year. We handled adversity, we didn’t blink. We just kept playing. The game rewarded our team this season and rewarded our team today. I’m awfully blessed. I’ve had a great group to coach since September. The camaraderie they have had, the togetherness, the way they have went about their work, their practices, weightroom, academics, they were an easy group to coach. I am proud of them. They represented this university, this program and that jersey they put on, they represented it the right way every day.
South Carolina heads to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. The Gamecocks will be one of the top two seeds in the tournament depending on the results from tonight’s contests in the league.