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Much of the early season conversation surrounding No. 14 South Carolina has been focused on slugger Wes Clarke and the team’s gaudy offensive numbers — and for good reason.
Heading into Friday night’s series opener against Mercer, Clarke led the country with eight homers, and the Gamecocks ranked first in the nation in slugging percentage and homers per game, second in batting average and eighth in scoring with 10.1 runs per game. Through the first seven games, USC outscored opponents 71-28.
But South Carolina can do more than just mash home runs. On Friday night — with runs tougher to come by — Mark Kingston’s Gamecocks showed they can win tighter games, too.
Spearheaded by a strong start by junior ace right-hander Thomas Farr, the Gamecocks defeated Mercer, 5-1, moving to a perfect 8-0. The eight straight wins to start the season are the most for USC since the team won its first 10 games in 2016.
One of the several power arms that has garnered national attention for South Carolina, Farr lit up the Founders Park radar gun yet again, touching 97 miles per hour in an electric first inning before settling into 93-94 MPH for most of the context.
Mixing in a hard-biting slider, Farr allowed just one run on six hits and three walks and struck out five in 5.1 innings.
On the other side, Mercer right-hander Tommy Green held the Gamecock offense in check through the early innings, relying on a low, deceptive arm angle to flummox Gamecocks hitters and hold them scoreless through three innings.
However, Green’s luck ran out in the fourth when he hung a breaking ball to USC sophomore Braylen Wimmer, who drove it over the left-field fence for a two-run shot.
Wimmer, who opened the year in the outfield but has played second base in senior Jeff Heinrich’s (ankle) absence, ranks second on the team with four homers.
An inning later, Farr made one of his few mistakes of the game, leaving a pitch down the middle for Mercer first baseman Angelo DiSpigna, who drove in Mercer’s lone run with a double.
But the Gamecocks quickly responded in the bottom half of the fifth, with Andrew Eyster singling in a run and another USC run scoring on a bases-loaded hit by pitch of Colin Burgess.
Mercer put a brief scare in the Gamecocks in the top of the sixth when catcher Collin Price ripped what was initially ruled a two-run home run over the left-field fence. But upon replay review, the ball was found to have landed foul.
Peters relieved Farr with one out in the sixth and was electric in his own right, striking out five hitters and allowing no hits in 2.2 scoreless innings.
NEXT USC BASEBALL GAME
Who: No. 14 South Carolina (8-0) vs. Mercer (3-5)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Founders Park
Watch: Streaming online on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN