COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sophomore outfielder TJ Hopkins homered twice and sophomore catcher Chris Cullen added a homer and a career-high five RBI as well as seventh ranked South Carolina belted out a season-high 15 hits on the way to a 12-5 win over The Citadel on Tuesday night at Founders Park. The Gamecocks improve to 8-5 with the loss dropping The Citadel to 3-8 for the season.
Sophomore right-hander Graham Lawson earned his first victory of the season. He allowed four runs on four hits with three strikeouts and one walk in 3.0 innings of relief work. Junior left-hander John Parke picked up his first save of the year after allowing just one run on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in three innings of relief. The Citadel’s Alex Bialakis suffered the loss and is 0-1 on the season. He allowed two runs on four hits with one walk and three strikeouts in three innings of work.
South Carolina struck first as Hopkins led off with a single up the middle, stole second and scored on a single to left by Jacob Olson. With runners on first and second following a walk to Alex Destino, Jonah Bride knocked in another run with a single to right field to give the Gamecocks a two-run cushion.
The Citadel got on the board in the top of the fourth as Ben Peden recorded a solo home run to cut the Gamecocks lead to 2-1.
Carolina answered with three runs in the bottom of the fourth as LT Tolbert tripled to right field and Chris Cullen brought him in with a two-run homer, followed by a solo home run by Hopkins to give the Gamecocks a 5-1 lead.
The Gamecocks added six more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. With Matt Williams on second, Alex Destino delivered a one-run single up the middle to bring Williams home. Cullen added two more runs with a two-run single up the middle. Hopkins launched another homer to left field, this time driving in three runs as the Gamecocks extended the lead to 11-1.
Cullen tallied his fifth RBI of the game in the bottom of the sixth as he drove in Bride with a single to left-center for South Carolina’s 12th run of the game. The Citadel would score four runs in the top of the seventh.
The six-run fifth inning, highlighted by home runs from Cullen and Hopkins built the Gamecocks’ lead to 10 runs.
Eight of nine Gamecock starters recorded at least one hit in Tuesday’s matchup, with Chris Cullen and TJ Hopkins leading South Carolina at the plate. Cullen went 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBI, while Hopkins went 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI. Matt Williams and Jonah Bride also had multi-hit games with two hits apiece.
- Matt Williams currently has an 11-game hitting streak. He went 2-for-4 at the plate with two singles.
- Cody Morris made his first career start in a Gamecock uniform. He threw three scoreless innings with just one hit allowed, one walk and six strikeouts.
- LT Tolbert tallied his second career triple. His first came last year at Vanderbilt on April 1, 2016.
- TJ Hopkins launched his second and third career home runs. His first was on Feb. 24, 2016 vs. Winthrop.
- John Parke struck out a career-high five batters.
- Morris, Lawson and Parke combined for 14 strikeouts on the mound, two short of the season-high 16 vs. Wright State.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
“First thing, I’m most proud of our players for bouncing back and coming to the park with the right attitude today after obviously a very difficult loss on Sunday. They had a lot of energy yesterday when they came down. They were ready to get back out on the field, and I think that showed tonight. I think we can be a really good offensive team when we get [Chris] Cullen and TJ [Hopkins] going at the same time and [Madison] Stokes as well. He didn’t play tonight, but he will be back in there real soon. It was good to see those guys, TJ has been playing real well, but it was good to see Cullen get going. We’re having to play these midweek games without some of our bullpen guys and pitching some new guys in some situations they haven’t been in. So it’s good to see John Parke throw and good to get Cody Morris out there for his first outing. It’s a good win for us. I’m proud of our guys’ attitudes, their moxie and their want-to. Hopefully we can keep that going tomorrow.”