COLUMBIA - Chad Holbrook could sense the nerves as his players stepped to the plate during batting practice before the first pitch of Opening Day.
It was a long wait before the season started, made even longer when Friday's scheduled opener was postponed because of snow. South Carolina's anxiety was noticeable, at least to its coach.
Then the game started.
The No. 7 Gamecocks swept Bucknell before a combined two-game crowd of more than 15,500, following a 17-4 win in the early game with a 12-2 blowout as the sun set. South Carolina (2-0) never trailed in either game.
"I think we kind of settled down and played OK," Holbrook said, the understatement of this one-day-old season.
Holbrook said there were things that needed to be "shored up" for Sunday's finale against the Bison (0-2). It took the critical eye of a coach to find any blemishes.
South Carolina scored 29 runs on 22 hits Saturday. It had only one error in 18 innings. Starting pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop allowed just two runs and two walks in 10 innings combined, with both picking up their first win of the season.
It was as close to perfection as possible. And it started at the plate. Where Holbrook once sensed nerves, there were only free swings and RBIs.
"I've always heard hitting's contagious, and we showed that today," first baseman Kyle Martin said. "Once someone got a hit, the team kind of got behind them and got into the game. The confidence level just kept going up. It made seeing the pitches a lot easier, with all the confidence running through."
It resulted in two stuffed box scores, from leadoff to No. 9.
Five South Carolina players had multiple RBIs on the day, led by center fielder Tanner English's career-high five RBIs on 3-of-4 batting in the late game. Right fielder Connor Bright had five RBIs in the two games, catcher Greyson Greiner had four RBIs, and designated hitter DC Arendas had three RBIs and the Gamecocks' first home run of the season in the opening game.
"I was able to get the ball up in the air," said Arendas, who's battling for playing time. "To say that the wind helped is an understatement, but we'll take it."
Arendas smiled while he spoke. Everyone did. A day that began with nervous pregame at-bats ended with jokes.
Across the street, South Carolina's basketball team beat Alabama for its second straight SEC win, the first time in three years that happened. USC coach Frank Martin attributed some of his team's success to a Fathead picture of Holbrook in the student section, which he said distracted Alabama's bench.
Holbrook had already heard the quip before entering the postgame media room at Carolina Stadium. At the end of an undefeated day, the easy-going coach was ready for a comeback.
"You know what, I'm glad I can contribute to three wins today on this campus," Holbrook said, laughing. "Coach Martin wants to make fun of my forehead. I'm not going to make fun of his belly. I'm not going to do that yet. He's got me in waist circumference, and I've got him in forehead surface area, I guess. I'm glad he chose to point me out there.
"I do have a big head. You look at the size of this hat right here, there's not many that are bigger than this one. . You know what, that's just how I was born."
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