Five games in a week can test a teams pitching depth.
South Carolina junior right-hander Evan Beal and three relievers took care of that issue by combining on a one-hit shutout Wednesday night in a 4-0 victory against Coastal Carolina at Carolina Stadium.
Beal, who was coming off a preseason stress reaction in his back, tossed four no-hit innings in his first outing since last year. Used as a starter and reliever in his first two seasons at USC, he showed no ill effects from the injury, walking one batter and striking out three in his 48-pitch stint.
Its, certainly, been a long road. Im just glad to be feeling good and back in one piece, Beal said. Im not in mid-season form yet. First outing, I just wanted to go out and control the (strike) zone a little bit and throw strikes. I wasnt really worried about velocity, because thats going to come with getting my arm back in shape.
After retiring 12 of the 13 batters he faced, he was pleased to contribute instead of watching his teammates.
Ive got a little ways to go. Im shaking off the rust, but Im certainly happy with where I am right now, he said.
The second-ranked Gamecocks (21-3) defeated the Chanticleers (10-15) in their first meeting since the 2010 NCAA Super Regional in Myrtle Beach, where USC won a pair of games on the way to its first national championship.
USC coach Chad Holbrook liked what he saw in Beals debut
He was very composed. His changeup was very good. He threw a couple of good curveballs in there, Holbrook said. It, certainly, gives us another option on our pitching staff, one with experience and talent and good stuff. Its a big shot in the arm for us with the performance of Evan.
Right-hander Curt Britt (1-0), who gave up the only Coastal hit to G.K. Young to lead off the fifth inning, followed with three scoreless innings to get the victory. Left-hander Vince Fiori pitched the eighth inning and right-hander Reed Scott threw the ninth to finish off South Carolinas 10th shutout of the season.
I just wanted to keep the score at zero, do my job and get outs, Britt said.
CCU coach Gary Gilmore saluted the USC pitchers for their performance.
When you play them, youre going to have to compete, Gilmore said. Theyre going to command, theyre going to throw off-speed pitches for strikes and keep you off-balance. Their guys did a great job.
South Carolina jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning off CCU left-hander Dalton Moats (0-3), who gave up a two-run double to Marcus Mooney after walking Brison Celek and allowing a single to DC Arendas.
Celeks RBI double in the third inning upped the lead to 3-0, and Arendas drove in the final run in the fifth with an infield hit.
Holbrook liked that his team won for the second consecutive night without the services of catcher Grayson Greiner, who has a bone bruise on his thumb, and second baseman Max Schrock, whos still recovering from an ankle sprain.
All in all, Im proud to get two wins this week, Holbrook said. The team wasnt necessarily at full strength, and its a credit to our guys for circling the wagons a little bit and finding a way to keep winning.
The challenge gets tougher with No. 22 Tennessee (19-4) coming to town for a three-game SEC series this weekend. Holbrook was pleased that he didnt have to use top relievers Cody Mincey and Joel Seddon against the Chanticleers. He remains hopeful that Greiner and Schrock will be able to take the field against the Volunteers.
Hopefully, we can get healthy Friday and get ready, because were going to need to be. Were going to have to do more offensively and play better to be able to win the series against Tennessee, Holbrook said.