The final series of the regular season didn’t go quite as South Carolina might have hoped, but the Gamecocks did just enough, winning one of the three games, to lock up the No. 4 seed at this week’s SEC Tournament, which gives them a first-round bye. A successful showing in the tourney could impact whether or not USC is chosen as a regional host site (though they likely will be), which may serve as extra motivation for the guys. Plus, it would be nice to get back into the win column before the national tournament starts.
South Carolina 4, Mississippi State 5
The Cocks took an early lead in Thursday night’s game, putting up two runs in the first inning. Graham Saiko led off with a walk, Chase Vergason singled, and Joey Pankake tripled to get both guys in.
The Bulldogs cut that lead in half in the third inning. Nick Ammirati started things off with a base hit, Alex Detz coaxed a one-out walk, and Brett Pirtle singled with two outs to make the score 2-1.
Carolina padded their lead in the fifth inning, scoring their final two runs. Brison Celek knocked a one-out double, then Tanner English came through with a double of his own with two outs. Saiko followed that with a RBI base hit that put the visitors on top 4-1.
MSU responded and took the lead in the eighth, though. Wes Rea led off with a home run, C.T. Bradford singled, Demarcus Henderson laid down a bunt for a base hit, Ammirati brought Bradford across the plate with a single, and Adam Frazier came through with a RBI base hit of his own to tie the game. Then it was heartbreak time, as a wild pitch, intentional walk, and an unintentional free pass brought in another run to make it 5-4 in favor of the home team. Rea ended the inning with a groundout and the Bulldogs left the bases loaded, or things could have been even worse.
Yardcocks starter Nolan Belcher worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed nine hits, one run, walked three batters, and struck out four. After a brief appearance by Adam Westmoreland, Tyler Webb, making his school record-breaking 103rd appearance, pitched the final inning and gave up four hits, three runs, and issued two walks. He took the loss and drops to 2-2. After the game, Webb said he would give up 100 appearances in exchange for the save, which was heartbreaking.
Mississippi State starter Luis Pollorena went 4 2/3 innings and surrendered five hits, four runs, and walked one batter. Chad Girodo threw one inning, issued a walk, tallied two K’s, and earned the win, improving to 6-1 on the season. Jonathan Holder threw the final inning, struck out a batter, and earned the save, his 15th of the season.
Celek had two hits to lead South Carolina at the plate, while Bradford, Henderson, and Ammirati all had three to lead the Bulldogs.