It's early, but after two games, it seems South Carolina has a pretty solid starting rotation.
A day after Carmen Mlodzinski tossed seven scoreless innings in a 10-0 win on Opening Day, No. 2 starter Brett Kerry struck out 12 of the 20 batters he faced on Saturday.
The Gamecocks backed him with nine runs on nine hits, including two more home runs, in a 9-4 win over Holy Cross in Game 2 of the three-game series.
Kerry was dominant, striking out a career-high 12 batters in five innings. He allowed three runs on five hits but bounced back nicely after a rough second inning. He didn't walk a batter on 89 pitches.
As he did out of the bullpen last season, Kerry consistently got ahead in the count and punched out batters with a well-located fastball and slider.
“It’s amazing, you watch him doing it and you don’t see 95 and you don’t see an 81-mph hammer, you just see guys struggle to see it well and put it in play a lot of times," head coach Mark Kingston said. "I think he was just Brett Kerry being Brett Kerry."
After striking out the side in the first inning, Kerry gave up a leadoff triple and a two-out double to surrender a run in the second. Ben Dellacono then hit a two-run home run to cut South Carolina's lead to 5-3.
But he rebounded with a 1-2-3 inning, including two strikeouts, in the third. He pitched around a leadoff single in the fourth and struck out the side again in the fifth.
South Carolina scored five runs in the first inning, a 40-minute frame that may have impacted Kerry's performance when he returned to the mound.
“On a cold day like today, and we had a very, very long first inning on offense where he just had to sit in the dugout," Kingston said. "He was really sharp in that first inning and that second inning just wasn’t quite there, but it’s probably a little understandable."
“I would say lack of focus mentally," Kerry said of his problems in the second inning. "We had a long first inning and I came back out there and the velo was a little bit down, but I just have to have the mindset to attack just like I did in the first inning."
Overall, it was a strong first outing for Kerry, who pitched mostly out of the bullpen last year and entered the year on the national watch list for Stopper of the Year.
"An alright start," he said. "I'd like to go deeper in the game for my team. When they put up five in the first, I need to put up a zero and get back in the dugout."
For the second straight day, the Gamecocks had a big first inning, scoring five runs on three hits and three Holy Cross errors. And once again, they displayed solid situational hitting and clutch at-bats.
Brady Allen led off the game with walk in a nine-pitch at-bat. Brennan Milone than reached on an error and Andrew Eyster drove in a run with a sharp single to right-center field. Milone then scored when Noah Campbell executed a perfect squeeze bunt. Wes Clarke drove in another run with an opposite-field single.
After Braylen Wimmer reached on an error, two more runs scored on George Callil's two-run single to left. South Carolina has scored 11 runs in the first inning of the first two games.
"It's important to get that momentum in the first inning," Eyster said. "It sets tone for game and is pretty deflating for other team."
After Holy Cross cut the lead to 5-3, Eyster gave the Gamecocks a three-run lead with a solo home run in the fifth. It was the second home run in as many days for the junior outfielder, who had 10 last season.
Clarke made it 8-3 in the third with a two-run blast to right-center, his first of the season. Freshman catcher Colin Burgess knocked in another run with an RBI double, the first hit of his career.
"It felt good to finally get ahold of a pitch," Clarke said. "If felt great to do what I wanted to do with a pitch I wanted."
Eyster, Clarke and Calill had three hits each for South Carolina, while Clarke had three RBI.
Cam Tringali, Parker Coyne, Julian Bosnic and Danny Lloyd finished the game for the Gamecocks. Tringali allowed one run on two hits, while Coyne pitched out of bases-loaded jam in the eighth. Lloyd got the final out with the bases loaded for his first save.
Game 3 is set for noon on Sunday.