By Jeff Owens | File photo by Allen Sharpe
After struggling against Georgia over the weekend, TJ Hopkins snapped out of his mini-slump in a big way Tuesday night, hitting two home runs and driving in four in South Carolina's 12-7 win over Furman.
Hopkins went 2-for-13 against Georgia on the opening weekend of SEC play, but made Furman pay Tuesday night. He drove in South Carolina's first run of the game with an RBI double in the fourth. He then homered in the fifth and seventh innings on a 3-for-4 night.
“I was seeing the ball well tonight. It was one of those nights where the ball looked like a beach ball," Hopkins said.
Brady Allen and Jacob Olson had two hits each, while Allen also had four RBI.
Dylan Harley got his first career win in relief of starter Daniel Lloyd as the Gamecocks improved to 15-6 on the season.
After struggling offensively in getting swept by Georgia, the Gamecocks needed to bounce back before continuing SEC play this weekend at Tennessee.
Head coach Mark Kingston said his team made no major changes, but it was good to get back on track.
"We needed to get our mojo back and have an approach that would work tonight but also moving forward. They did a good job," he said.
“Georgia threw some good guys at us," Hopkins said. "... When you face guys like that, you don’t need to change anything. I was kinda pulling off some balls. I was seeing it well but nothing was really falling. Tonight I was just trying to hit the ball every time at the batter’s eye.
“It’s going to be a fun weekend in Tennessee.”
Furman struck first, scoring a run on one hit in the third. Lloyd walked Banks Griffith to start the inning before being relieved by Harley, who promptly gave up a run-scoring triple to Jabari Richards.
After going hitless in the first three innings, the Gamecocks broke loose for five runs in the top of the fourth. Quinntin Perez started the rally with a double into the left-center field gap. After a sac-bunt by Noah Campbell, Perez scored on a double to right by Hopkins. Luke Berryhill drove in Hopkins with a single to right
After Andrew Eyster walked, Berryhill scored on an error on Chris Cullen's ground ball to second. Brady Allen then knocked in two more runs with a single up the middle.
Another Furman error — by a different second baseman — led to two more South Carolina runs in the fifth. After Campbell reached on the error, Hopkins hit a two-run blast over the center-field wall.
The Gamecocks added a run in the sixth on another RBI single by Allen and another in the seventh on Hopkins' second home run. His solo blast was his eighth home run of the season and his third this year at Fluor Field. It also marked his second career two-homer game, his first since March of 2017 against The Citadel.
South Carolina added three more runs in the eighth on two hits and an error. Cullen started it with a double and scored on a groundout by Allen. Campbell drove in another run with a sac fly and Perez scored on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Joel Brewer.
Lloyd started the second straight mid-week game and allowed one run on one hit over 2.1 innings. He walked three and struck out two on 53 pitches.
Harley relieved Lloyd in the third and gave up the RBI triple before settling down. He retired the Paladins in order in the fourth before pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth and then giving up a solo home run to Sterling Turman in the sixth. Harley gave up one run on four hits with four strikeouts and just one walk in 3.2 innings, his longest relief outing of the season.
“That’s his third our fourth time in a row that is encouraging," Kingston said. "He needs to be an important part of our pitching stuff. He gave us a real good outing tonight.
Furman, which hit three solo home runs, rallied for five runs in the eighth and ninth innings off John Gilreath, Parker Coyne and Cole Ganopulos before Cam Tringali got the final out of the game. Kingston was not happy with the performance of the rest of the bullpen after Harley left the game.
"[We] got sloppy at the end. Wasn’t happy with that at all," he said. “This mid-week pitching is your depth so our depth needs to be better. When we score 12 runs, we shouldn’t have to be sweating late in the game like that. We need to get better."