Katie Prebble never knew getting hit by a pitch could be so much fun.
When Prebble got pegged by a wild pitch in the second inning at Carolina Stadium Saturday, it opened the floodgates of a nine-run inning that sparked South Carolina to an 11-1 win over Southern Illinois. The Gamecocks sent 15 runners to the plate, with Prebble picking up an infield hit in her second at-bat of the inning.
“That was fun,” Prebble said. “We have a fun team and we all come together really well, especially in innings like that. I think we mesh well with the mix of bats we have and all the different things we can do. It’s really exciting.”
South Carolina pounded out 12 hits for its third straight win to start the 2020 season. Prebble was one of four batters to collect two hits along with Mackenzie Boesel, Lauren Stewart and Madison Owens. Boesel, Owens and Jana Johns each had two RBI.
After the Gamecocks went down in order in the first inning, they bounced back by putting four straight runners on base in the second. After Prebble was hit by a pitch, South Carolina had nine straight hits before SIU got the second out of the inning. The first out came on a sac bunt by Anna Vest that moved two runners into scoring position.
Kassidy Krupit, Owens, Haley Simpson, Kenzi Maguire and Boesel all had RBI singles before Johns tripled into right center field to drive in another run. The Gamecocks scored another run on a double steal and Owens had two RBI hits in the inning.
“I really liked to see the adjustments that our hitters made after the first inning,” head coach Beverly Smith said. “I thought we made quick adjustments and I thought our base running was exceptional and put a lot of pressure of SIU’s defense.”
She was also thrilled to see the bottom half of the lineup ignite a big rally. Hitters five through nine combined for four hits and four RBI in the five-inning game.
“I think it shows our depth,” Smith said. “The bottom of our order is just as dangerous as our top. They got that started and just kind of opened the door and everyone relaxed and just started hitting the ball hard after that.”
“We’re tough to beat and we’re going to be tough to beat for the rest of the year,” said Prebble, the team’s cleanup hitter who had two hits, including a home run, on Opening Day. “We have 20 girls who can do a lot. It’s exciting to have that flexibility on our team.”
The Gamecocks also got another outstanding pitching performance by Kelsey Oh, who allowed just one run on one hit and struck out six. Oh, who improved to 2-0, carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up a leadoff single.
After pitching out of a two-walk jam in the first, she settled down and dominated the next three innings. It helped seeing her team put up a nine-spot in the second.
“It was a huge deal. The offense always has my back and I know they could put that many runs up every single game,” she said. “It’s so fun, so fun. It’s definitely more relaxed and more fun [after that].”
“I think you saw a big difference in Kelsey going out in the third,” Smith said. “It’s different when you are pitching with a nine-run lead. You are extra loose and relaxed and you know you don’t have to be so perfect. It lifts that pressure for sure.”
Oh threw seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts on Friday. After the shaky first inning Saturday, she had two strikeouts in each of the next two innings and retired 11 straight batters.
“Coach Bev was calling some great pitches, [catcher] Anna [Vest] was doing a phenomenal job for me behind the plate and the defense worked so hard again. I just got into a good groove,” Oh said.
“Having a no-hitter going into the fifth was nice. I was holding my breath a little bit,” Smith said. “For her to come back on day two, I thought she did a nice job.”
Freshman Karsen Ochs relieved Oh in the fifth and walked three batters before getting out of the inning. SIU had the bases loaded when center fielder Lauren Stewart made a leaping grab against the wall to end the game in the bottom of the fifth on the 10-run rule.
“Lauren Stewart made a fabulous catch at the wall,” Smith said. “That was the exclamation point.”
The Gamecocks return to action Sunday at 3 p.m. in the final game of the Carolina Classic.