Casas’ monster home run leads USC baseball to victory as Clemson series looms

Surely, the ball landed. But it was nearly impossible to tell.

On Tuesday night, Gavin Casas unloaded on the longest South Carolina home run of the season. It looked like he was trying to hit a golf ball to the moon, turning on a belt-high breaking ball and walloping it into the night sky.

It came off his bat at 109 mph and landed past the confines of Founders Park, likely somewhere along Williams St., 429 feet away from home plate.

On a rainy midweek night, it blew open the doors for No. 19 South Carolina (8-1) in its 7-1 win over Gardner-Webb.

If there is such a thing as a trap game in college baseball, this would be it. Tuesday was South Carolina’s tune-up before it takes on rival Clemson (7-1) this weekend, playing Friday at Founders Park, Saturday at Segra Park (the Columbia Fireflies home stadium) and Sunday afternoon at the 10th-ranked Tigers.

In the last 15 years, South Carolina has only once lost the pre-Clemson mid-week game, falling to Furman in head coach Mark Kingston’s first season in Columbia. Despite that, there’s been some close calls: a 6-5 win over North Florida (2020), a two-run win over App State (2019) and a 2-1 win over Presbyterian College (2012).

Until Casas home run late in the fifth inning, Tuesday was shaping up to be a bit of a nail-biter. Gardner-Webb grabbed the lead in the second inning with a solo home run off South Carolina starter Eddie Copper, The freshman righty, making his second career start, was solid aside from that pitch, striking out five and giving up just three hits in five innings of work.

When Copper threw what would be his final pitch of the night, the Gamecocks trailed 1-0. By the time reliever Ty Good threw his first pitch, South Carolina led 7-1. The Gamecocks only scored in the bottom of the fifth inning, putting up seven runs in a frame that lasted over a half hour.

There were three walks, a hit by pitch, sac fly and RBI-single before Casas stepped to the plate with two outs and two men on.

Casas, MVP of the Columbia Regional last season, has not had the best start to his senior year. He entered Tuesday hitting just .211 but three of his four hits were doubles. Kingston has said that he wants to give Casas every opportunity to get back to his 2023 form.

He looked back on Tuesday night, as he sent his home run towards the street.

South Carolina baseball schedule this week

  • Friday vs. Clemson, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

  • Saturday vs. Clemson at Segra Park, 4 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)

  • Sunday at Clemson, 2 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)