COLUMBIA - Senior TJ Hopkins hit for the cycle, classmate Jacob Olson had two home runs and five RBI, redshirt freshman Ian Jenkins had three hits and freshman Brett Kerry struck out six in a five-plus inning start as the No. 24 University of South Carolina baseball team completed a three-game sweep of Valparaiso with a 12-6 win Sunday afternoon (March 10) at Founders Park.
Hopkins started his cycle with a home run to left in the fourth inning. He doubled in the fifth, and singled in the seventh. He completed the feat by tripling in the eighth to the gap in right. Hopkins, who scored three runs and drove in four, becomes the first Gamecock to hit for the cycle since Kyle Martin on April 11, 2015 against Florida.
Olson was 3-for-5 and drove in five runs. He now has seven on the year, leading the team. Olson homered in the fourth and seventh frames.
Jenkins, making his second career start, got the Gamecocks on the board with a mammoth home run to right center in the third inning. Valpo answered with a run in the fourth, but the Gamecocks came back in the bottom of the frame on homers from Hopkins and Olson. A Hopkins double in the fifth scored Jenkins, giving Carolina a 5-1 lead.
Valpo put up three runs in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run home run from Blake Billinger, then tied the game in the seventh on a Sam Shaikin sacrifice fly. Carolina took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh on Olson's three-run home run to left center. A solo home run from Valpo's Brent Jones cut the lead to 8-6 in the eighth. Valpo had runners on first and second with no one out with redshirt sophomore TJ Shook entering the game. Shook got a strikeout and a double play with runner's interference to end the threat.
Carolina added insurance with four runs in the eighth. Jenkins singled to open the frame. Noah Campbell singled, moving pinch runner Jacob English to third base. English scored on a wild pitch and Hopkins drove in a pair of runs with the triple that clinched the cycle. The final run scored on Luke Berryhill's RBI fielder's choice.
Kerry threw five innings and allowed three runs and six hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Sawyer Bridges earned the win in relief, allowing a run and two hits in an inning's work. Shook picked up the save, striking out a pair in two innings of work.
Olson's second home run, a three-run shot in the seventh, gave Carolina the lead for good. Olson has a team-best seven home runs.
Carolina had four more home runs in Sunday's game, upping the total to 32 on the season. Olson leads the team with seven home runs with TJ Hopkins not far behind with six round-trippers.
Kerry still has not allowed a walk in 14.1 innings pitched while having a .189 opponent's batting average.
Carolina had its second sweep of the season, taking all three games from Utah Valley on Feb. 22-24.
Hopkins now has three of Carolina's five triples.
Jenkins, who redshirted last season due to injury, had a double and a home run in the win.
South Carolina hits the road to Joe Riley Park in Charleston, S.C., for a matchup against The Citadel on Tuesday, March 12. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.