South Carolina rode strong pitching and a pair of home runs to a 10-6 win over Georgia Tech in a 12-inning fall scrimmage at Founders Park Sunday.
First baseman Wes Clarke and freshman catcher Colin Burgess both homered for the Gamecocks, who are wrapping up the fall season after finishing 28-28 last spring. Grad transfer Bryant Bowen, junior-college transfer Anthony Amicangelo and freshman Brennan Milone each had two hits as South Carolina out-hit Georgia Tech 10-9.
Head coach Mark Kingston was most impressed with his pitchers, who combined to strike out 15 batters and walk just six batters against a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season. The pitching staff struggled in South Carolina first fall scrimmage, losing to NC State 15-5.
Kingston said they showed "drastic improvement" Sunday.
“We have emphasized working fast, attacking the strike zone, not wasting pitches and I thought they did a better job of that today," he said.
Carmen Mlodzinski, South Carolina’s probable Friday night starter, had mixed results in his one inning before a host of scouts. Topping out at 97 mph, Mlodzinski struck out the side. But he also walked a batter, threw two wild pitches and gave up two runs on two hits, both hard-hit balls.
Kingston was impressed with his ace, though.
“Carmen’s stuff was electric. Just about every fastball he threw was 97 mph," he said. "But he didn’t throw all his pitches, he didn’t throw many cutters. He was working on things. He probably didn’t pitch like he wanted a zero up there like everybody else did, but when you got that guy throwing for you, you’ve got a good chance.”
South Carolina’s most impressive pitcher was junior-college transfer Brannon Jordan, who struck out four in two scoreless innings. Jordan struck out the side in the sixth and fanned four of the six batters he faced.
Kingston said Jordan is in the mix for the weekend rotation, or could be a key reliever.
“He was very crisp, had great stuff, had great command, great composure out there. Of all the guys who pitched today, he was probably sharpest," he said.
Cam Tringali, Daniel Lloyd, TJ Shook, Parker Coyne and freshman Trey Tujetsch and R.J. Dantin also looked good out of the bullpen as the Gamecocks threw 11 pitchers in the 12-inning game.
Trailing 2-0, South Carolina got a run in the third when George Callil was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a sac bunt by Noah Myers and scored on an RBI single by Milone.
The Gamecocks took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on an RBI single by Bowen and some nifty base running. Brady Allen started the rally with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when Bowen drove a ball off the right-field wall. After Amicangelo and Clarke both walked, Bowen scored on a wild pitch.
Georgia Tech jumped on Carolina closer Graham Lawson for three runs on four hits and a walk in the ninth to take a 5-3 lead. Lawson, coming off Tommy John surgery, was up to 94 on his fastball and didn’t pitch bad. Two of the four hits were infield singles and a third was a high bouncer over first base. He stranded runners at second and third to get out of the inning.
South Carolina had just three runs on three hits through the eight innings but erupted for five runs in the bottom of the ninth to take an 8-5 lead. It scored the first two runs with some good situational hitting, an emphasis in fall camp. With Allen on first with a walk, Bowen singled through the right side on a hit-and-run. Amicangelo then beat a shift to drive in a run with a single to right.
After Bowen scored on a wild pitch, Josiah Sightler walked and Clarke blasted a three-run homer over the center field wall.
Clarke, who has battling to start at first base, got off to a slow start this fall but has been swinging the bat well lately, Kingston said. He is working on being more aggressive at the plate and he showed it in the ninth.
"Earlier in the game he took some pitches he shouldn’t have taken, he needed to be more aggressive," Kingston said. "That at-bat he was more aggressive and when he got his pitch, he crushed it."
After Georgia Tech bounced back with a solo home run off Dylan Harley in the 10th, Burgess lined a pitch over the left-field wall for a home run and a 9-6 lead.
The Gamecocks added another run in the 11th when Noah Myers doubled, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Noah Campbell's sac fly.
The fall scrimmages are designed to gauge how much progress teams have made during the offseason and to challenge new players fighting for a role on the team. Kingston believes he saw some positive developments Sunday.
"We saw some guys who have the ability to play at this level," he said. "We are making the progress we need to be making, especially on the mound. And I think it will be a more veteran offense this year that will give us a chance.”