With a depleted bullpen and its back against the wall USC gave a start to its ace closer and boy didn’t it pay off. Chad Holbrook handed the ball Tyler Johnson and Johnson delivered a complete game gem in a 10-1 Gamecocks win over UNCW. That sets up a rematch Monday night, the winner moves on to a Super Regional.
It was only Johnson’s second career start and his first this season. His career long outing was four inning against Wofford back in March. He blew by that total with his nine innings of five hit ball. He struck out a career high 11 batters against just one walk. The lone UNCW run was off a solo homer in the first inning by Brian Mims.
Johnson said he didn’t find out he would be starting until about 20 or 30 minutes before game time. Holbrook said his outing reminded him of what Michael Roth did when they called on him out of the bullpen to start in the postseason. The initial plan was to let Johnson go three or four innings, but that went out the window as with each dominate inning. Johnson tossed an efficient 115 pitches to complete the game. He was still hitting 90-93 in the radar gun in the 9th.
Offensively, USC batted around in the 2nd inning and scored five runs. That spurt gave them control and momentum they wouldn’t relinquish. Gene Cone finished the game with three hits and three RBI. TJ Hopkins had a pair of hits and runs. Hunter Taylor, the former third string catcher turned Gamecock hero, made his second start in as many days and had a pair of hits and drove in two.
The crowd at Founders Park was rowdy all game and seemed to affect the UNCW player. Cory Grantz didn’t make it out of the second inning on the mound. In total, the Seahawks used six different pitchers in the game.
With Johnson’s big night Holbrook has a lot of options in Monday’s winner take all game. He didn’t reveal his starting pitching plans, but listed several people as available arms. That list included Braden Webb, Tyler Widener, Reed Scott and even Clarke Schmidt. All hands will be on deck, it would appear.
Meanwhile, according to the UNCW SID, the Seahawks will start Ryan Foster. He started Friday night against Duke and tossed 114 pitches in a complete game win over the Blue Devils.