April 24, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Junior outfielder Gene Cone set a school record with a 27-game hitting streak and went 5-for-5, just a homer shy of the cycle and drove in three runs as fourth-ranked South Carolina defeated Missouri 9-2 to sweep a three-game SEC series. The Gamecocks are now 33-8 and 14-4 in the SEC. Carolina is in first place in the conference, one game ahead of Florida, who come to Columbia next Friday for a three-game set. Missouri falls to 20-21 and 4-14 in league play.
Cone’s 27-game hitting streak is the longest active streak in Division I baseball and is two shy of the longest this season by a Division I player. He scored three runs and drove in three as well to lead Carolina at the plate. Cone finished the weekend 10-for-12 at the plate with six RBI and seven runs scored vs. the Tigers.
Freshman right-hander Adam Hilll earned the win and is now 6-0 on the year. He pitched 6.1 scoreless innings with just four hits allowed and one walk while striking out eight batters. Missouri freshman left-hander Michael Plassmeyer suffered the loss and is now 3-4 for the season. He allowed five runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings with three strikeouts.
South Carolina struck for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning. Cone led off with a triple to the gap in right-center and scored on TJ Hopkins RBI single up the middle. After Hopkins stole second base, Alex Destino knocked a RBI base hit up the middlea as well to give the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead.
Cone and Hopkins were at it again in the third to increase the lead to 3-0 as Cone doubled with one out and scored on Hopkins second RBI single of the afternoon.
The Gamecocks added two more in the fourth inning as Cone tallied his third hit of the game, a two-out two-run single. Madison Stokes singled with two outs followed by a base hit off the bat of LT Tolbert. Missouri would go to the pen for right-hander Brian Sharpe, who walked Mooney to load the bases. That set the stage for Cone, who knocked a single up the middle to score both Stokes and Tolbert.
Cone’s fourth hit of the afternoon gave the Gamecocks a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning. After Mooney reached base on a single, Cone drove a double into the gap in left-center for his third RBI of the day.
Missouri broke the shutout in the eighth inning. With two outs and Ryan Howard on first base, Zach Lavy lifted a double into left-center to score the Tigers’ first run of the game. Trey Harris added a RBI single in the eight to cut the Gamecocks’ lead to four runs.
The Gamecocks responded though with three more runs in the eighth inning. Cone, Hopkins, Jones and Destino strung together four consecutive hits with Hopkins, Jones and Destino each tallying RBIs to make it 9-2.
Cone’s triple to lead off the bottom of the first set the tone for the first few innings for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina’s top four hitters in the batting order combined to go 14-for-20 at the plate with five runs scored and all nine runs driven in.
Cone’s 5-for-5 day at the plate was the second by a Gamecock this season. Alex Destino went 5-for-5 on March 4 in a win vs. Clemson.
Hopkins had seven hits in a pair of games this week with three this afternoon and four on Wednesday night at Furman. He is now hitting .352 (25-for-71) for the season.
Sophomore right-hander Tyler Johnson pitched 1.1 scoreless innings of relief with two strikeouts. He did not allow a run over the weekend in four innings of relief vs. Missouri.
South Carolina’s 16-hit afternoon tied the most by the Gamecocks in a SEC game this season. Carolina also had 16 vs. Arkansas on March 18. South Carolina is 18-0 on the year when reaching double-digits in hits.
The Gamecocks are now 25-1 on the year at home including a 9-0 mark in SEC games at Founders Park.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
I am really proud of my team and I thought we played a great game today. We pitched, we played defense and we swung the bats very well. Obviously Gene [Cone] had an incredible day, it was a special day for him, not only the way that he played, but also breaking the school record hitting streak. He has been on a great run and a very confident kid who has put his time in and his work and it’s always great to see his hard work paying off. TJ [Hopkins] gave us a spark again, that’s two games in a row. He has been in the lineup and he has made a difference for us, he brings so much from an athletic standpoint. When he is on base he makes it easier for us to score because he is so fast and he can put pressure on the other team. I thought he was terrific today and he had some good swings on it too. He had just missed a home run there, that kid made a good play, but he swung the bat very well. On Friday night things didn’t look so well in the middle innings of that game, sitting up here two days later – having won three games in a row and beat some good pitchers to do it – I feel good about our team and the series turned in the middle innings on Friday night. We kept the momentum the rest of the way. I am awfully proud of my team for the way they came to the park today ready to play, not satisfied with the first two. Maybe played one of their most complete games of the year today.
In a battle of the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference, the Gamecocks will host Florida in a three-game series at Founders Park beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. Friday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.” Saturday’s game is at 7 p.m. with Sunday’s contest at 1:30 p.m.