Mark Kingston was 0-for-2 on Opening Day at Founders Park.
“Thanks for reminding me," he said Thursday.
The third-year head coach got the monkey off his back Friday with a 10-0 win over Holy Cross to open the 2020 season. And it went about like he hoped.
Ace starter Carmen Mlodzinski was sharp and the offense hit two home runs and manufactured 10 runs on six hits and eight walks. Kingston even got to empty the bench, playing 14 players.
It was South Carolina's first shutout on Opening Day since 2009 as Holy Cross had just six hits against three Gamecock pitchers.
"Good opening day win," Kingston said. "It feels much better than it did the first two years on opening night."
Mlodzinski, one of the top pitchers in the country, wasn't dominant but was highly efficient, scattering six hits and walking just one in seven scoreless innings. He struck out three and was rarely in trouble. His first two pitches were 97 and 96 mph and he collected his first strikeout on a wicked 82-mph changeup. He was throwing 94 in the seventh.
A redshirt sophomore, Mlodzinski started on Opening Day last year but lasted just four innings, giving up three runs on six hits and three walks. Two weeks later, he broke his foot in a start at Clemson and missed the rest of the season.
He was dominant last summer, however, in the elite Cape Cod League and entered this season as one of the top pitchers in the country.
“The most encouraging thing is we asked him to pitch efficient and go deep in the game, and he did that," Kingston said. "That’s what we have seen from Carmen since he got back from the Cape. Good to see that in the opening game.
“He was efficient, he was crisp and he threw a lot of different pitches for strikes."
Mlodzinski said he had no jitters going into his second Opening Day start.
"When our offense puts up 10 for you, it’s a little easier to pitch," he said. "[It was] just trust my fastball is something I have grown on in the past year. Just trust your movement and trust the defense that they are going to make good plays like they did today."
The Gamecocks used good plate discipline and a big blast to jump on Holy Cross early. After Noah Campbell and Brennan Milone both worked the count to draw walks, cleanup hitter Bryant Bowen, a grad transfer from Southern Miss, delivered in his first Carolina at-bat, blasting a three-run homer over the left-field wall.
After Carolina put two more runners on with a walk and a hit batter, Dallas Beaver, the Gamecocks' other grad transfer, delivered, poking a fly ball to left that fell for a two-run double, allowing Andrew Eyster and Braylen Wimmer to score. George Callil drove in Beaver with a single to right to give the Gamecocks a 6-0 lead.
They added a run in the second when Eyster smacked a solo home run into the Gamecock bullpen in right center.
Carolina used great plate discipline to produce a big inning again in the sixth. Campbell reached on an error and had two steals while Milone and Bowen both walked to load the bases. Eyster then worked a walk in a long at-bat to force in a run. Wimmer followed with his first career hit, driving in two more for a 10-0 lead.
Despite just six hits, Kingston was pleased with his team's discipline and efficiency at the plate.
"We were on base 15 times in eight innings, and that’s what our focus has been," he said.
Holy Cross was a able to make solid contact at times against Mlodzinski, but South Carolina's infield defense was outstanding. Callil picked off a runner at second with a heads-up play in the fourth and ended the inning by combining with Wimmer on a sweet 6-4-3 double play. Wimmer then made a diving stop at second in a 1-2-3 fifth. They turned another double play in the seventh to snuff out a Holy Cross rally.
Graham Lawson, returning from Tommy John surgery, was lights-out in his first appearance since 2018. Lawson struck out the side on 18 pitches in the eighth, reaching 96 on his fastball. Freshman Trey Tujetsch finished the game with a scoreless ninth.