Founders Park: It took a super performance by USC in a 6-3 win over NC State Saturday night at Founders Park in Columbia.to advance to within one win of their first Super Regional since 2018. The Gamecocks combined strong pitching with timely offense and superb defense to move into the regional final Sunday night.
The Gamecocks (41-19) need one win Sunday night against either NC State or Campbell to advance. If necessary, a second regional final game would be played on Monday. The Wolfpack and Camels will play an elimination game at Noon Sunday. Campbell stayed alive Saturday afternoon with a 10-5 win over Central Connecticut State.
Jack Mahoney, Eli Jones, Chris Veach and the defense behind them gave the Gamecocks the chance to win this one. Mahoney pitched the first six innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. He struck out six and did not walk a batter. In fact, the Gamecocks as a staff did not walk a batter.
Mahoney (7-3) got out of trouble in the bottom of the first. State got runners to second and third with two outs, but a fly ball ended the threat. He then retired 11 of the next 12 State batters with a double play ball erasing a leadoff single in the fifth.
The Wolfpack finally got to Mahoney in the sixth after he struck out the first two batters. Three straight singles scored State’s first run, and Chase Nixon brought in two more with a double. Mahoney got out of further trouble with a strikeout.
Jones pitched the next 2.1 innings and did not allow a run while scattering five hits, and Veach got the vinal two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but not without some drama. He inherited a one out, first and second situation, and got a ground out to third and a fly out to center to end the game and earn his fifth save.
Behind them, one Gamecock infielder after another made sparkling plays, none bigger than first baseman Gavin Casas in the eighth starting a double play by backhanding a hard shot, stepping on the bag and firing to second to get the lead runner. That play prevented the Wolfpack from perhaps piecing together a rally.
The Gamecocks pieced their runs together in the third and fifth innings, each time with two outs. They took a 2-0 lead on a two-run homer by Braylen Wimmer, his 13th of the season. They built their cushion with a four run fifth inning thanks to four consecutive walks that produced one run, a two-run single by Casas and an RBI single by Michael Braswell.
Casas had two hits and two RBIs giving him five hits and five RBIs thus far in the regional. The Gamecocks had eight hits on the night but were bolstered by nine walks. They ended up leaving nine on base. To compare the pitching, USC’s three combined for 84 strikes and 41 balls (67.2 strike percentage), and State’s five combined for 105 strikes and 85 balls (55.3 strike percentage).
The USC Regional is paired with the Florida Regional and with the Gators losing Saturday night to Texas Tech, the Gamecocks would host the Super Regional should they finish things off in Columbia and someone other than Florida emerge from Gainesville.