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Analysis: Թϱ baseball earns series win against Belmont despite 1st loss of season

The Թϱ baseball team reached its fourth run-rule victory of the season and clinched a series win against Belmont on Feb. 25, 2024, at Founders Park. The Gamecocks started the weekend with an 8-1 victory Friday, followed by an 11-2 loss in game two on Saturday before wrapping up the weekend with a 12-1 victory over the Bruins. The team will continue its nine-game homestead on Tuesday when it hosts Gardner-Webb. 

The No. 21 Թϱ baseball team took the series against the Belmont Bruins but suffered its first loss of the 2024 season over the weekend.

Թϱ took the first game of the series 8-1 on Friday in a matchup that showcased two true freshman pitchers. 

Junior pitcher Eli Jones got the start for the Gamecocks. He pitched for three innings and gave up no runs and no hits, but he did not return to the mount after a lengthy rain delay

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Freshman pitcher Tyler Pitzer followed with three innings of his own, allowing four hits and one run, while striking out five batters. He was then followed by junior pitcher Tyler Dean and freshman pitcher Joey Wittig for the last three innings of the game.

Despite the Gamecocks' positive pitching outing, its offense was inconsistent throughout the lineup, with four different players not tallying a hit.

The Gamecocks dropped the second game of the series on Saturday, falling to the Bruins 11-2. Թϱ struggled with runners in scoring position during the game, while also recording eight errors. 

Թϱ bounced back in the third game of the series against Belmont with a 12-1 win on Sunday afternoon.

Junior catcher Cole Messina had a memorable day as he hit a pair of two-run home runs in the fourth and eighth innings, respectively.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Roman Kimball made his second start of the season on the mound. Kimball gave up one run and two hits and recorded four strikeouts to just two walks in four innings of work.

"I thought Roman set the tone today," head coach Mark Kingston said. "(Junior outfielder) Kennedy Jones in the leadoff spot set the tone today."

The Gamecocks will head into mid-week play with a few key takeaways.

Casas and Brewer shine

Coming into this series, senior infielder Gavin Casas had only one hit in four games. He seemed to turn things around this weekend, tallying three hits to bring his season total to four in a clear improvement that Kingston noticed.

“It was good to see 'cause Gavin obviously has been struggling,” Kingston said. “He works really hard and, you know, we kept him in there, we keep giving him shots to show that he can recapture what he had last year.” 

Fifth-year outfielder Dylan Brewer continued to produce in this young season. Brewer went a combined 7-9 on the weekend. Kingston said that Brewer’s offensive production is a bonus and that he was chosen as a starter for factors outside of his offense. 

“He earned a job because he does so many things,” Kingston said. “The fact that he’s hitting as well as he is is a bonus, but he plays great defense, he runs the bases really well, he has speed, so the fact that he’s hitting now is really icing on the cake.”

Bats went down quietly late in game two

The Gamecocks didn’t have its way for the majority of the game, and those moments started to stack up in the later innings when Belmont continued to grow its lead. Not only was the pitching and defense troublesome, but the offense struggled with runners on base late in the game.

Թϱ left 13 runners on base over the course of the game, while striking out eight times as a team. The offensive disaster reached its peak in the seventh and eighth innings, when four runners were left stranded between the two innings. Every out recorded in those two innings was by the strikeout.

The eighth inning was certainly the rougher of the two when it came to missed opportunities, as two runners got on base to begin the inning but were unable to score after three straight batters struck out looking. Թϱ seemed to constantly be getting runners on base without them ever seeming to get close to home.  

It was just one of those days,” Kingston said. “They happen sometimes, even to really good teams. You have bad days. Today was a bad day by a good team.”

Kennedy Jones shines in starting debut

Kennedy Jones made his first start of the season and played a significant role in Թϱ’s run-rule victory on Sunday. The UNC Greensboro transfer went 2-4 with a solo home run and a single and a walk.

"Honestly, words can't really describe the feeling," Kennedy Jones said

Coming into the day, he had been relatively quiet to start the year, as he only recorded one hit in four at-bats.

"I think my teammates have my back all through this process, there wasn't really an upsetting moment for me at a time," Kennedy Jones said. "My teammates were always picking me up."

His leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning set the tone for Թϱ’s offense, which collected 10 hits and eight walks total.

What's next?

The Gamecocks will look to improve its record on Tuesday against Gardner-Webb in a midweek clash at Founders Park. First pitch is set for 4 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.


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