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.
South Carolina 5, Mississippi State 3
The Gamecocks again took the lead first in Friday’s game, although they didn’t get on the board until the fifth inning. Grayson Greiner started things off with a single, Saiko walked, and both runners moved up on a groundout by Kyle Martin. Connor Bright followed by also grounding out, but it was enough to get Greiner across this dish. A wild pitch brought Saiko in and put USC up 2-0.
MSU cut that lead in half in the next inning. Frazier and Detz knocked back-to-back singles, and with one out, Pirtle got a boo-boo and a free base to load the bags with Bulldogs. Frazier came home courtesy of another wild pitch to make the score 2-1.
In the seventh inning, Mississippi State took the lead. Derrick Armstrong laid down a bunt for a base hit with one out, then Frazier and Detz singled as well to load the bases again. Pirtle came through with a two-RBI base hit that put the home team up 3-2.
USC responded and tied things up in the next inning, though. Max Schrock knocked a one-out single, Vergason notched a base hit to put runners on the corners, and Schrock trotted home courtesy of another wild pitch.
Neither team could add any more runs in regulation, though the Bulldogs came close, leaving the bases loaded in the ninth inning. That meant bonus baseball in Starkvegas, and Greiner came through in a big way for the Cocks in the tenth, as he launched a two-run bomb that gave the visitors a 5-3 lead. Carolina could have added even more runs, but instead left two guys stranded. The Bulldogs had no answer in the bottom of the inning, going down in order.
South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery worked seven innings and allowed nine hits, three runs, issued one walk, hit a batter, and tallied four K’s. Westmoreland tossed two innings, walked one batter, hit one, struck out two, and earned the win, improving to 7-1 on the season. Webb came on again for the save and this time was successful, tallying one K in one inning of pitching and getting his conference-leading 16th save of the year.
MSU starter Kendall Gravement went 6 1/3 innings and gave up five hits, two runs, issued a walk, and struck out four batters. The Bulldogs used seven more pitchers during the remaining 3 2/3 innings and Bradford took the loss, dropping to 0-1 on the season.
Greiner had three hits to lead the Gamecocks at the plate (he was the only player with more than one) and Detz had four hits to lead Mississippi State.
South Carolina 2, Mississippi State 7
Unlike the previous two games, this one didn’t end up being close. USC did continue their pattern of taking the lead first, though as LB Dantzler went yard to put the visitors up 1-0 in the top of second inning.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs had an answer – and took the lead – in the bottom of the inning. Bradford singled with one out, then moved to second on an error, and came home on a single from Henderson. With two outs, Henderson crossed the dish after a wild pitch and another error, putting the home team up 2-1.
MSU padded their lead in the sixth. Pirtle led off with a single, Bradford knocked a one-out base hit, Henderson followed that with a base hit of his own, and yet another wild pitch brought Pirtle in. To make matters worse, a throwing error got Henderson home and put the Bulldogs on top 4-1.
Both teams put up their final runs in the eighth inning. The Cocks got just one more and it came courtesy of another long ball by Dantzler. He finishes the regular season with a team-leading 14.
Mississippi State added three more runs in the bottom of the inning. Pirtle started things off with a base hit, Rea followed suit, and Henderson knocked a RBI single to make it 5-2. Ammirati followed that with a RBI double, and Trey Porter came through with a sac fly RBI, making it 7-2.
Carolina starter Jack Wynkoop worked 5 1/3 innings and surrendered seven hits, four runs, walked two batters, struck out three, and had two wild pitches. He took the loss and drops to 7-3 on the season. Evan Beal, Vince Fiori, and Colby Holmes also pitched for the Yardcocks.
Bulldogs starter Jacob Lindgren lasted 4 1/3 innings and allowed five hits, one run, issued a walk, and tallied four K’s. Ross Mitchell threw the rest of the game and gave up two hits, one run, walked one batter, and struck out one. He earned the win and improves to an impressive 10-0 on the season.
Dantzler and Schrock each had two hits to lead South Carolina at the plate, while Henderson had three to lead MSU.
The Gamecocks finish the regular season with an overall record of 39-16 and a conference record of 17-12 (both of which are incredibly similar to last records, 39-15 and 18-11). For a team with a new head coach that’s had to battle (there’s that word again) through injuries and line-up inconsistencies, that’s none too shabby.
The Bulldogs finish 40-16 overall and 16-14 in SEC play. Mississippi State is the No. 5 seed in the tournament and will play Missouri, the No. 12 seed, in the first round. The winner of that game will meet USC on Wednesday at 8 p.m.