Last year, TJ Hopkins ended game one of the Carolina-Clemson series with his glove, making a diving play in center to end the game. This year, he did it with his bat.
Hopkins would deliver the game-winning play, lifting a sacrifice fly to left as the Gamecocks walked-off the Tigers 3-2 Friday night.
It's the Gamecocks (7-3) third-straight win to start the Clemson series, dating back to 2015.
"Coach Kingston and the new coaching staff have really changed my mindset about a baseball game,” Hopkins said. “We’re never out of it. That’s what he stresses in the dugout.”
After giving up the go-ahead home run in the sixth, Gamecocks would rally from a one-run deficit over the last two innings, sparked by a pinch-hit, game-tying home run by Matt Williams in the eighth inning.
It was his third pinch-hit appearance of the season, something that he knew would be coming about two innings before his number was called.
When he went out there, he sat fastball and it worked out in the end, sending the sellout Founders Park crowd into a frenzy.
"It’s kind of surreal, but it was fun," Williams said. "I didn’t really see it after I hit it. I didn’t’ know what was going on. I rounded first, and I couldn’t really breathe until five minutes after I got into the dugout."
The game-tying run was possible thanks to closer Eddy Demurias, who came in with one out and two on in the top half of the inning but got Seth Beer and Patrick Cromwell out to end the threat.
Demurias would close out the game, picking up his first win of the season after sitting down the Tigers in order in the ninth, punctuated by a strikeout.
“That out in the eighth inning with a sold out Founders Park on their feet, it was electric out there," he said. "When I made that pitch I knew I gave our team a chance to stay in the game. We were going to come back and fight. It was one of the cooler moments I’ve been on the field for.”
Hopkins would deliver after Demurias shut the offense down, as the junior popped a high fly ball to left field to bring home Jonah Bride, who reached on a walk and moved to third on an errant pick-off attempt that rolled to the Gamecock dugout.
Starter Adam Hill was dominant again, tying his career high for innings pitched and strikeouts that he set last week.
His 14 punch-outs would tie a Founders Park record, and he'd carry a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Beer's home run.
Over his last two outings, Hill has 28 strikeouts to two hits and has given up just two runs. He's also walked just two batters and his head coach said he's developing into "one of the top pitchers in the country.”
"He’s a competitor. He’s taken the next step. I’ve seen his previous stats, I’ve watched video in the past, I think he’s taken the next step," Mark Kingston said. "That’s very important for us as a program…that he’s showing he’s a Friday night guy.”
The win ends a two-game skid for the Gamecocks, who have now clinched the first game in the Clemson series for the third straight year.
It comes at the right time, too, with the team struggling to put up runs or hits over the last 18 innings.
After mustering six runs on 10 hits over the last two games, they went for three runs and six hits while pulling out the win.
“We spent the last two days looking in the mirror trying ot figure out what we can learn from it," Kingston said. "The worst thing you can do from a loss is feel sorry for yourself and not learn something from it.”