After a rough weekend, South Carolina's beleaguered bullpen desperately needed someone to step up.
After getting off to a bad start again Tuesday night, someone finally did.
Redshirt freshman Julian Bosnic tossed 2.2 hitless innings to earn his first career win.
The Gamecock offense, meanwhile, rallied from an early 4-1 deficit for a 6-5 win over North Florida. South Carolina scored six runs on 12 hits, including home runs by George Callil and Bryant Bowen. Right-hander TJ Shook closed out the game with five strikeouts in the last two innings to earn his first save.
South Carolina's bullpen blew two games over the weekend, walking four batters in the 10th inning of a 5-2 loss on Friday and struggled again in a 4-3, 10-inning loss on Sunday.
They struggled again early Tuesday night, but Bosnic, a left-hander coming off Tommy John surgery, pitched the Gamecocks out of a big jam in the fifth inning and followed it up with scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh.
“Bosnic threw really well," head coach Mark Kingston said. "He’s a guy coming off Tommy John and we’re hoping he is getting a little bit better every week. He’s got a real breaking ball and he was 88-89 with decent command of the fastball and enough strikes. … That will help us."
This one started badly for the Gamecocks. After Noah Myers led off the game with a triple and scored, South Carolina had a nearly disastrous second inning.
Andrew Peters, making is first career start, looked sharp in the first, striking out the side and climbing to 93 mph on his fastball. But Peters, who is also working his way back from Tommy John surgery, couldn't get anyone out in the second. He gave up a leadoff single and then walked the next two batters before exiting the game after 36 pitches.
John Gilreath relieved him and promptly gave up an RBI single. Gilreath then walked in a run and the Gamecock defense starting throwing the ball around the infield, committing two errors that allowed two more runs to score.
Kingston was not happy with his team's start to the game and let them know it in the dugout.
“That first hour of that game for us was very ugly and I addressed that with the team," he said. "We are a pitching and defense team and early on the walks and errors were just not good. The good thing is they settled in and the last seven innings they played pretty good baseball."
After falling behind, Kingston said he had to decide between trying to help his team relax or "giving them a kick in the butt." Part of his reaction was predicated on the upcoming series this weekend against rival Clemson, which lost to East Tennessee State Tuesday night.
“I did a little bit of both," he said. "I let them know after the game I was probably a little more on edge than normal, probably because of this weekend and what is ahead of us. I wanted us to play good enough tonight to create some momentum. Those first few innings I was trying to get their attention."
"He just told us what was at stake," Bowen said. "He just needed to do what he had to do as head coach and I think the players responded."
Trailing 4-1, South Carolina got two runs back in the bottom of the second on a two-run home run by Callil and then tied it in the third on a solo shot by Bowen.
But Gamecock pitchers continued to struggle with Gilreath and Parker Coyne laboring to get through the third and fourth innings. Coyne gave up a double and RBI single in the fifth to give the Ospreys a 5-4 lead before Bosnic came on to get out of the jam.
Bosnic pitched on opening weekend but walked three batters in two-thirds of an inning. He was much sharper Tuesday with two strikeouts and just one walk.
“It’s just been a long time since I've been out there so to get out there for a few innings, my arm felt really good. It was a good outing all around," he said. "… It’s been a long road, just glad to be back.”
Shook was also outstanding in the seventh and eighth, throwing two scoreless innings and closing out the game with five strikeouts. Both performances were encouraging for a team trying to find answers at the back end of the bullpen.
“That’s huge," Kingston said. "The first quarter of the season is trying to get guys in situations where they can grow and learn from and so Bosnic, he needed to come through there and that will pay dividends down the road. And then TJ to get those last six outs in dominant fashion, it will also pay dividends. We wanted to show the confidence in them that we think you can do it in key situations, and they came through."
Carolina rallied to tie the game on an RBI single by Wes Clarke and took the lead on an RBI single in the sixth by Jeff Heinrich. Braylen Wimmer led off the sixth with a base hit and moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by catcher Colin Burgess. Heinrich then banged a single up the middle to score Wimmer and give the Gamecocks a 6-5 lead.
The win was key for the Gamecocks, who started the season 4-0 before losing two of three to Northwestern over the weekend.
“Good to win a close game," Kingston said. "We needed to get a feel for winning a close game instead of letting them slip away. That’s hopefully something we can build on."