Whatever Mark Kingston said to his bullpen last week worked.
South Carolina's relievers were outstanding again Tuesday night, allowing no runs on just one hit in eight innings in an 10-1 win over The Citadel.
A week ago, after struggling in series losses to Northwestern and Clemson, the bullpen threw eight hitless and scoreless innings in a 3-1 win over Furman. It extended that streak to 13.2 innings before allowing a hit in a sweep over Cornell over the weekend. A mixture of veteran and young relievers have now allowed just three runs and six hits in its last 26.2 innings over the last five games.
Against The Citadel, six relievers combined for nine strikeouts in eight scoreless innings as the Gamecocks held the Bulldogs to just four hits.
"Just sticking to a simple plan and executing it," Kingston said.
With SEC play beginning this weekend, Kingston wanted to get as many pitchers into the game as possible. The Citadel provided a unique matchup with five left-handed hitters in the lineup. South Carolina countered with three left-handers as Julian Bosnic, John Gilreath and Josiah Sightler all saw action.
"That’s something we have struggled with so we were able to try to manage it today and pitch certain guys in certain innings," Kingston said. "We used three lefties tonight and all three did pretty well. That’s a nice development for us and something we need as a program. Just really pleased with how we were able to mix and match and the guys will all be available on the weekend as well."
Parker Coyne started the game for South Carolina and got hit hard in the first inning before striking out the side. Coyne gave up a leadoff triple, a single and double to give The Citadel a 1-0 lead before rallying to get a strikeout with the bases loaded to limit the damage.
The Gamecocks then turned to Bosnic, who walked three but struck out three in two scoreless innings to earn the win. He was followed by Gilreath, Cam Tringali, Daniel Lloyd, Sightler and closer Brett Kerry.
South Carolina also got its offense going Tuesday night, pounding out 12 hits, including three home runs. Noah Myers led the way, going 4-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored. Brady Allen also had three RBI.
Myers, a speedy left-handed hitter, had his best game so far as South Carolina's leadoff hitter, reaching base in all five plate appearances.
“He just took great at-bats," Kingston said. "That’s an elite night. That’s what we ask him to do. He had a tough day on Sunday but we wanted to show confidence in him and put him back in the leadoff spot today and he rewarded us for it. Really happy to see that."
"My role is to just get on base and set the table for the rest of the guys. I did my job tonight and it really worked out well for us," Myers said.
The Gamecocks tied it in the second when Andrew Eyster smoked a home run over the left-field wall. The Gamecocks then manufactured two runs in the third to take a 3-1 lead. George Callil was hit by a pitch to start the rally. Myers bunted him to second and beat out the bunt for an infield hit. Jeff Heinrich then moved them both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt of his own.
With the bases loaded, Allen knocked in two runs with a single to left.
The Gamecocks padded their lead with a couple of big hits in the fifth. Myers led off the inning with a single to left and scored from first on a gapper to right-center by Heinrich. Freshman Brennan Milone followed with his first career home run, a long blast to dead center.
Milone, one of South Carolina's best hitters in the preseason, missed 11 games with a hip pointer before returning to the lineup against Cornell. He had a double on Saturday and hit several balls hard throughout the weekend.
“It was a fastball right down the middle," he said. "I was kinda struggling there for a little bit, I wasn’t on time but I made sure I was on time for the fastball. I just kept my [nose] down on it and I got a good swing on it."
“That’s what he’s capable of," Kingston said. "We watched him do that since he stepped on campus. We think he still has some improvement and adjustments he can continue to make, but he was 1-for-2 with a big homer and took a walk. It was a step in the right direction."
South Carolina scored again in the sixth with Myers figuring into the mix again. Callil started it by getting hit for the second time in the game and the 12th time this season, the second-most in the country. He promptly stole second base and scored on a single by Myers.
The Gamecocks, 12-4, added three runs in the eighth on Allen's third home run of the season and a two-run single by Myers.
The win was a good tune-up for SEC play for the Gamecocks, who host Tennessee this weekend.
“We are as good as we can be right now," Kingston said. "Obviously everything ramps up this weekend. The 30-game grind starts this weekend. We’re not a finished product but we have made improvements that we needed to make so far. Now it’s a matter of testing ourselves in the best league in America."
NOTE: Reliever Graham Lawson, who left last week's game against Furman with an injury, has a strained lat and is week to week, Kingston said. He said he expects to get him back sometime this season.