South Carolina pitchers had problems finding home plate Wednesday night. North Carolina hitters had no such trouble.
The 13th-ranked Tar Heels sandwiched timely hits around 10 Gamecock walks and battered second-ranked South Carolina 15-0 at BB&T BallPark.
The game drew 10,205 fans, which Tar Heel officials said was the largest ever for a regular-season college game in North Carolina. It was the worst loss for South Carolina (28-6) in nine years.
After coasting through the first three innings, Gamecock starter Taylor Widener walked three Tar Heels in the fourth before Eli Sutherland stroked a bases-clearing double to left-center. North Carolina added three runs in the fifth, two on a Tyler Ramirez double, and the rout was on.
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The Tar Heels added five runs in the seventh, which featured a two-run double by Zack Gahagan, and four more in the ninth, when Kyle Datres hit a bases-loaded triple.
For North Carolina, which averaged 8.5 runs in its first 20 games this season but only 4.5 in the past 12, the lopsided victory “might be just what we needed to get us going offensively,” coach Mike Fox said. “I never expected this.
“It’s got to give us a little shot of confidence, with Hunter going out there and dominating the way we did, and with us getting so many two-out hits.”
By the time Ardrey Kell High product Chris McCue entered the game to pitch for North Carolina in the ninth, most of the crowd had left for home. McCue struck out three in the ninth, giving Tar Heel pitchers 11 strikeouts for the game.
In addition to surrendering the walks, the nine Gamecocks pitchers gave up 11 hits, including four doubles and a triple.
3 who mattered
Hunter Williams: Making his longest appearance of the season, the Tar Heels’ starting pitcher scattered six hits over 6 1/3 innings and got the victory.
“Everything was clicking on all cylinders. Tonight, I just focused on repeating my delivery,” Williams said.
Eli Sutherland: North Carolina’s starting second baseman flew out to deep left in the second inning. In the fourth, with the bases loaded, he drilled the ball into the same area, but it fell for a three-run double that gave his team all the runs it needed.
Logan Warmoth: The Tar Heel shortstop went 2-for-6, drove in a run, and made several nice plays in the field.
▪ Fans had to wait until the top of the eighth inning for a Charlotte-area player to make an appearance. North Mecklenburg product Ryder Ryan struck out in a pinch-hit appearance for the Tar Heels. Josh Ladowski of Lake Norman High batted in the ninth for the Tar Heels and reached on a fielder’s choice.
▪ South Carolina rightfielder Gene Cone’s fourth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 20 games. But teammate Alex Destino’s 21-game hitting streak came to an end.
▪ South Carolina starter Taylor Widener in the first three innings: no hits, no walks, 39 pitches. In the fourth inning, when he was lifted with two outs: one hit, three walks, three runs, 24 pitches. Things went downhill from there for the Gamecocks.
▪ This was the first regular-season meeting between the Gamecocks and Tar Heels since 2004, a game played at the old Knights Castle in Fort Mill, S.C. But the teams played in 2013, with North Carolina winning a three-game NCAA Super Regional series and advancing to the College World Series.
▪ The Tar Heels and Gamecocks will play again next year in Charlotte. And there’s another college game this season at BB&T BallPark, with Wake Forest and Appalachian State meeting April 26.
▪ The game was a sellout, and most of the seats were full by the time of the first pitch. North Carolina fans sat on the third-base side and South Carolina followers on the first-base side.