With his USC Beaufort baseball team gathered around him in right field of the Sand Sharks' home park at Hardeeville's Richard Gray Baseball Complex, Rick Sofield listed off the names of players who deserved a hand from their teammates for outstanding performances.
The names kept coming, and so did the applause. It was that kind of weekend for the Sand Sharks.
Led by another strong pitching performance from right-hander Dexter Price and an offense that broke out for 35 hits in the doubleheader, USCB ran its winning streak to eight games Saturday, beating Ave Maria 13-1 and 13-7 to finish off a three-game sweep to open Sun Conference play.
"We're very blessed, no question. It's hard to do," Sofield said. "It's hard to win a game, it's harder to sweep somebody."
But the Sand Sharks (9-1 overall, 3-0 Sun Conference) made it look easy this weekend.
With several pro scouts on hand to watch him, Price didn't disappoint. He went the distance in the seven-inning opener, striking out nine and allowing just one unearned run on four hits. In 11 innings for USCB, the junior transfer from Auburn has not allowed an earned run.
"It felt pretty good," Price said. "I was able to control my fastball, inside and outside. I was able to get the curve ball over for a strike, and when I needed to bury it, I buried it."
And USCB buried the Gyrenes (6-9 overall, 0-3 Sun Conference) with a strong performance at the plate, pounding 15 hits and breaking it open with an eight-run sixth. DeShontay Berry led the way, going 3 for 4 with a double, a home run and four RBIs, and Conald Mansfield also was 3 for 4 with a two-run homer.
The offensive outburst continued in the second game, as USCB had 20 hits, led by David O'Neil and Keifer Youmans with four apiece.
"Everybody's starting to find their groove," Berry said. "Everybody's starting to get comfortable in the position they're in and contributing. It's working out pretty well."
The Sand Sharks broke in front early to make a winner of starter Michael Heesch, who improved to 3-0 despite allowing five runs in five innings.
Heesch left with a 10-5 lead, and the bullpen -- which wasn't used until Game 3 of the series thanks to complete games from Price and Game 1 starter Adam Miller -- made it stand up. Andrew Barrineau threw two scoreless innings, Colton Rudd struck out the side in a perfect eighth, and Andres Castro worked around an error to finish it off with minimal damage in the ninth.
The Sand Sharks have won eight straight since losing their home opener 13-1 to Brewton-Parker, but Sofield wants to see his team keep up the intensity through two midweek games leading into another conference series at Webber International next weekend.
"We're a good club," Sofield said. "We need to keep putting the pedal to the metal. That's the grind. The physicality says we're good enough to do lots of good things. The question is whether we have the mental toughness, too."
Ave Maria 100 000 0 -- 1 4 1
USCB 031 018 x -- 13 15 1
WP: Dexter Price (2-0) 7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 9 K.
LP: Nolan Luyk (1-1) 4 2-3 IP, 5 R, 5 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 2 K.
Top hitters: Ave Maria -- Stephen Attaway 2 for 3. USCB -- Larry Perry 2 for 5, double; Spencer Jackson 3 for 4, 2 RBIs; Conald Mansfield 3 for 4, HR, 2 RBIs; R.J Neal 2 for 3, double, 2 RBI; DeShontay Berry 3 for 4, double, HR, 4 RBIs.
Ave Maria 002 120 002 -- 7 10 3
USCB 202 423 000 -- 13 20 4
WP: Michael Heesch (3-0) 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
LP: Stephen Ori (1-3) 3 1-3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 5 BB, 1 K.
Top hitters: Ave Maria -- Bobby Oliver 2 for 5; Brian Trymbiski 3 for 5, 2 RBIs. USCB -- David O'Neil 4 for 5, 4 runs, RBI; Spencer Jackson 3 for 4, 4 runs, double, 2 RBIs; Conald Mansfield 1 for 1, 2 RBIs; Brett Martin 2 for 3, RBI; R.J. Neal 1 for 4, 2 RBIs; Paul Cheeks 2 for 4, double; Keifer Youmans 4 for 5, double, 2 RBIs.