After his 95 mile-per-hour fastball sizzled through the strike zone and the home-plate umpire rang up the third straight batter of the first inning Sunday, Jack Mahoney let out a primal scream. Excitement oozed out of the pitcher’s body as he strutted off the Founders Park mound, pumping both fists and giving high fives to his South Carolina teammates spilling out of the dugout.
Mahoney waited a long time for that moment — 656 days to be exact.
The last time the junior right-hander started a game for the Gamecocks — on May 5, 2021 against North Florida — he didn’t make it through the first inning. Mahoney tore his ulnar collateral ligament in that game, had Tommy John surgery, and he didn’t pitch at all for the Gamecocks last season. Instead, he served as an occasional hitter off the bench, tallying just 16 at-bats on the year.
Finally, after nearly two years of waiting, Mahoney had the chance to pitch again in USC’s sweep-sealing 12-1 win over UMass Lowell on Sunday. Not only did Mahoney appear fully healthy — he looked dominant.
Working from 93 to 96 mph on the stadium radar gun, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander carved through the River Hawks lineup, looking like a Friday night ace in the process. He struck out the first four batters he faced en route to a career-high nine strikeouts and his fourth career win.
Though he ran into some trouble in his final inning of work, allowing a pair of two-out hits, Mahoney was on cruise control for most of the game, scattering five hits in 5.2 innings and walking no one. He threw 76 pitches, 52 for strikes.
His offense had its hands full against UMass Lowell righty Matt Draper, who kept USC’s hitters off balance through four innings in what started out as a pitcher’s duel.
But as they’ve done all weekend long, USC’s batters eventually started cooking. A six-run bottom of the fifth sealed the win for both Mahoney and the Gamecocks, with a three-run homer by sophomore Cole Messina and a two-run shot by Vanderbilt transfer Gavin Casas breaking the game wide open. The Gamecocks would go on to hit three more homers in the game, with freshman Ethan Petry hitting his first career shot, Casas hitting a second homer and Kevin Madden drilling a ball over the fence in the eighth inning.
The Gamecocks out-scored UMass Lowell 49-5 on the weekend.
After allowing two singles with two outs in the top of the sixth, Mahoney gave way to reliever Cade Austin out of the bullpen. Fans treated Mahoney to a standing ovation as he walked off the mound — as did his Gamecocks teammates. Mahoney exchanged hugs with a few Gamecocks near the first-base line before enjoying the rest of the win from the dugout.
Next four USC baseball games
Tuesday: vs. Winthrop, 4 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
Wednesday: vs. Queens, 4 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
Friday: vs. Penn, 4 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
Saturday: vs Penn, 2 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
This story was originally published February 19, 2023, 4:08 PM.