No. 4 South Carolina 24, College of Charleston 4
COLUMBIA -- Monte Lee was bemoaning College of Charleston's hitting before Tuesday's game here. While it was far from special, the Cougars' pitching is what took them out early against the defending national champions.
Powered by leadoff hitter Adam Matthews' pair of home runs and eight RBIs, South Carolina blasted Charleston, 24-4, in front of 6,555 fans at Carolina Stadium.
"I'm sure it was a night for them to forget," Matthews said. "It was one for us to remember."
The Gamecocks (15-4) scored 15 runs in the first three innings -- more than they'd scored in a game all season. The 24 runs set the new stadium record, and it was the most runs scored by South Carolina since it defeated Charleston Southern, 38-0, in 2004.
A five-run eighth inning, led by bench players and reserves, got the Gamecocks within two runs of the most runs College of Charleston had allowed in its baseball program history.
Lee, a former South Carolina assistant and Midlands native, took the loss hard. He was walking through the outfield tunnel, to the team bus, just seconds after the last out was finally recorded.
"Sometimes in this game you're surprised by the outcome, and tonight was one of those games," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "It's a situation where I understand the shoe could be on the other foot, and it very well may be when we go down to Charleston. You don't enjoy it as much when someone you know is on the other side.
"He has a great team. They're going to be fine."
South Carolina hit four home runs Tuesday after hitting three in the past five games. They hit seven doubles and whacked 19 hits.
"We had some of the best at-bats we've had in a long, long time, and in consecutive fashion," Tanner said.
After dropping the Friday night SEC opener to Georgia, USC has now won three consecutive games, continuing to gain steam in advance of this weekend's series at No. 1 Florida.
"We've got confidence," Matthews said. "I think we're going to get on a pretty good roll right now."
First, though, the Gamecocks host Rhode Island tonight. Adam Westmoreland will start for USC, Tanner said.
All nine starters in the USC lineup registered a hit Tuesday by the seventh inning after Evan Marzilli's two-run double that made it 19-3.
That includes All-American Jackie Bradley Jr., who snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a three-run home run in a seven-run second inning. He jumped on reliever Casey Lucchese's first pitch, sending it into the opposite-field seats in left.
Bradley singled in his next at-bat, later scoring.
"I finally found a groove a little bit," Bradley said. "I'm glad to be back in it."
Tanner added: "I'm happy for him. He was a little frustrated."
A 400-plus-foot bomb from Matthews to the deepest part of the park, just left of the center fielder batter's eye, was the highlight in an eight-run third inning that caused things to get out of hand very early in the evening.
"I'm seeing the ball really well right now," said Matthews, who had no home runs and three RBIs before a career night. "It was good to get that first (home run) and the second one. Hopefully it'll continue."
The result was far from what Lee wanted after the Cougars (15-7) dropped all three games this past weekend in the Cougar Invitational, scoring a total of five runs against Southern Miss, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Charleston used eight pitchers, none lasting longer than two innings. The staff walked 10 and hit four batters.
Starter Robert Jeroszko (2-2) gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings.
In scoreboard shock, Charleston did not string together good at-bats against USC starter Colby Holmes, who is looking to get himself in the weekend rotation mix.
Holmes (2-0) went six innings, allowing three runs on five hits. The sophomore walked two and struck out six, mixing his off-speed stuff well with a fastball that topped out at 88 or 89 miles an hour.
Of course, pitching with a 15-run lead helps.
"It was kind of shocking," Holmes said. "All those runs gave me more confidence."
Tanner said Holmes, who threw 87 pitches, is a strong possibility to start Sunday at Florida.
"If he was sharp, he could go 4-6 innings," Tanner said, "if we decide to go in that direction."