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Schrock’s slam lifts USC in SEC opener

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Schrock’s slam lifts USC in SEC opener

Max Schrock's first career grand slam powered No. 7 South Carolina past Kentucky in the Gamecocks' SEC baseball opener Friday night at Carolina Stadium. (Richard Shiro/AP/File)

Head coach Chad Holbrook said his feast-or-famine lineup would have to generate some offense if South Carolina was going to win in the SEC. Friday night, Max Schrock took care of that with one swing.

Schrock hit his first career grand slam, and right-hander Wil Crowe tied a career high with 10 strikeouts as No. 7 South Carolina allowed just one hit and won its SEC opener 10-1 over Kentucky in a steady drizzle at Carolina Stadium. The Gamecocks won their eighth straight game since a March 2 shutout loss to Clemson, while the Wildcats had an 11-game streak snapped.

Schrock also tripled home a run in the eighth, and finished with a career-high five RBIs. It was his second straight game with a home run, and USC’s second straight game scoring double-digit runs.

“I think we’re getting into maybe a little bit of rhythm,” Schrock said. “We’re figuring out where guys are fitting in the lineup, figuring out what guys like hitting where, and what guys’ strengths and weaknesses are. I think it’s coming together a little bit.”

South Carolina (15-3, 1-0 SEC) trailed 1-0 until the fifth, when Kentucky starter Zack Brown walked the bases loaded. Schrock, a junior left-fielder, hammered a fastball over the wall in right field for his third homer of the season, and the third grand slam by the Gamecocks this year. Brown had pitched 14.2 consecutive scoreless innings before the blast.

“He was stuffing us at that point,” Schrock said. “The thought ran through my head, that it was a big at-bat and maybe I could turn something around. That’s what I did.”

Holbrook called it “a clutch situation with his team needing him to execute, needing him to produce, and he did it in a big way.”

Meanwhile, Crowe was untouchable. He allowed an unearned run in the first after two errors by Jordan Gore set up a JaVon Shelby RBI single, but it would be the only hit Kentucky (13-4, 0-1) managed all night. Crowe retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced before turning it over to Jordan Mincey in the eighth, and his 10 strikeouts matched a career-best first set Feb. 14 against College of Charleston.

“I told him after the game, that was an impressive a performance, in the conditions that were out there, against an SEC team, a team that came in hitting over .300. He just competed and pitched his tail off,” Holbrook said. “... He was kind of a one-man wrecking crew on defense for us tonight.”

Despite the conditions, Crowe used primarily fastballs that kept the Wildcats off-balance. “They started sitting on pitches that were swing-and-miss pitches,” Crowe said. “So we just figured out they weren’t going to swing at those, and tried to beat them with the fastball.”

The series continues with a 4 p.m. game Saturday, while the finale is set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday. USC sends Jack Wynkoop (3-1, 2.00 ERA) to the mound Saturday against Kentucky’s Dustin Beggs (2-1, 2.59).