COLUMBIA — South Carolina senior Adam Matthews picked the perfect time to snap out of his early-season slump.
Matthews hit a three-run homer, LB Dantzler had a solo shot and the undefeated Gamecocks beat rival Clemson 9-6 on Saturday.
Matthews entered with a .174 batting average but hit a drive to center off Dominic Leone in the third inning to put the Gamecocks up 6-2. The right fielder also singled and scored in the fifth.
“It’s finally starting to come together,” Matthews said.
South Carolina, the two-time defending national champions, is off to a 9-0 start despite having to replace key players at catcher, shortstop, third base and second base. The Gamecocks scored two runs in the 11th to beat Clemson 3-2 on Friday night in the opener of the three-game series in Charleston.
South Carolina showed Saturday it has the power to outslug opponents and the pitching to back it up.
Dantzler, a newcomer at third, hit his third homer of the season in the second inning to trim Clemson’s lead to 2-1. Dante Rosenberg’s run-scoring groundout tied the game before Leone (2-1) hit Tanner English with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run.
Matthews’ first homer of the season extended the lead.
“It was a great feeling,” said Matthews, a 23rd round selection of the Baltimore Orioles last June.
South Carolina reliever Evan Beal (1-0) pitched four solid innings, retiring 12 of 13 over one stretch.
Richie Shaffer hit a two-run homer for Clemson (4-4) in the ninth, but former Greenbrier star Nolan Belcher got the final out to pick up his second save in the series.
The teams play again today at Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“Must win, honestly, applies to us every game,” Shaffer said. “We don’t ever go into any game thinking, ‘Well, we can slip up here.’ ”
Clemson didn’t arrive at Carolina Stadium until about 45 minutes before the scheduled first pitch at 2 p.m. Tigers coach Jack Leggett said he was told to wait at the team’s hotel in Charleston because it looked as if rain would delay the start at least two hours.
Instead the rain held off and the game began about 45 minutes after its expected start.
“We didn’t want to hang out here for several hours so we just came up when they told us to come up,” Leggett said.
South Carolina fans taunted Leggett before the start. One shouted, “Jack, are you scared?”
The victory gives South Carolina a series victory over the Tigers. South Carolina has defeated Clemson in 16 of the past 22 contests between the two schools dating back to the 2007 season.