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USC’s DC Arendas pulls in a throw from home to get The Citadel’s Bret Hines out trying to steal second base in Tuesday night’s game at Riley Park. The Gamecocks won, 6-3. (Wade Spees/Staff)

South Carolina is only nine games into its season, but Citadel coach Fred Jordan is convinced.

The Gamecocks are back.

South Carolina pounded out 15 hits to back the pitching of freshman Adam Hill, and the Gamecocks held on for a 6-3 win over The Citadel before a crowd of 6,298 at Riley Park on Tuesday night.

Based on that evidence, Jordan said USC looks more like the baseball team that made 15 straight NCAA regional appearances and won two national titles than last year’s 32-25 club that missed the postseason.

“Boy, they have re-tooled their ball club,” Jordan said of the 9-0 Gamecocks. “They are very, very impressive. We were fortunate to keep it as close as we did.

“They look like a South Carolina team that’s going to make a deep run in the NCAAs to me.”

With the Bulldogs down 5-0 in the sixth, Citadel first baseman Drew Ellis uncorked a bases-loaded double off the left-field wall, bringing in all three runners to cut USC’s lead to 5-3.

But the Gamecocks’ Jonah Bride answered with an RBI single in the seventh, and the 5-2 Bulldogs didn’t threaten after that against USC relievers Brandon Murray and Josh Reagan.

“We got back in the game, but they can really pitch,” said Jordan, whose team committed four errors. “I was disappointed in one of the errors that allowed runs, but other than that we played about as well as we could.”

The Bulldogs did something Penn State could not do in three games last weekend -- retire USC slugger John Jones. But Jones was among five Gamecocks with at least two hits, led by left-fielder Dom Thompson-Williams with three.

“We’ve got some big, strong physical guys and some guys with some confidence right now, and we’re moving the ball pretty good,” said USC coach Chad Holbrook.

Hill, a lanky right-hander from Anderson, also is moving the ball pretty well. He allowed just three hits and struck out eight in five scoreless innings, moving him to 2-0 with no runs allowed in 11 innings this season.

“He’s been really special,” Holbrook said of the 6-5, 180-pounder. “I thought his fastball was great tonight, and showed great composure when they threatened a little bit. He’s got a bright future here for sure.”

Making just the second pitching start of his career, the Bulldogs’ 5-9, 150-pound Jacob Watcher stranded three runners in the first and worked through a bunt single and an error in the second.

But the Gamecocks broke through for four runs in the third, as a Jones double, a Chris Cullen single and a Gene Cone double off the wall in left accounted for two runs.

The Bulldogs failed to turn a double play on a DC Arendas grounder to short -- Jordan loudly protested the ump’s ruling that second baseman Philip Watcher had missed the bag -- to bring in the third run. Marcus Mooney’s RBI single made it 4-0.

The Gamecocks added a run in the fifth on Danny Blair’s flair to left, scoring Arendas.

Both teams have big rivalry series this weekend. USC takes on Clemson, while The Citadel faces College of Charleston.