The Yardcocks won 2 out of 3 against Mississippi State at home by scores of 10-2, 7-8 and 14-2.
Breaking it down…Senior Blake Cooper recorded the win on Friday night by pitching 8 1/3 innings and only allowing 2 runs. Cooper struck out 7 and allowed 6 hits on the way to his (and the team’s) 4th series opening win in a row. Cooper gave up one run in both the top of the first and the third inning. The Gamecock offense struck for 4 runs in the bottom of the first to give Cooper all the run support he would need. Bulldog starting pitcher Kendall Gravamen failed to record an out against the five batters he faced before being pulled from the game. The star of the lineup was undoubtedly designated hitter Brady Thomas. Thomas went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs and 4 runs batted in. Jeffery Jones and Robert Beary also had multiple RBIs in the game. Mississippi State didn’t do themselves any favors by committing 4 errors in the game.
On Saturday the Gamecock team was unable to pick up where it left off on Friday night. For whatever reason USC didn’t have its mojo working, and the scoreboard reflected it. Starter Sam Dyson got hit early, and the Gamecocks fell behind 5-1 after 2 ½ innings. Dyson managed to stay in the game until the 6th and then gave way to 7 South Carolina relievers. The relievers had mixed results and allowed three more runs. USC’s bats didn’t start much better than its pitching, and the team was only able to scratch 3 runs in the first 7 innings. In the eighth the offense came alive and scored 4 runs on 4 hits. It was enough to make the game interesting but ultimately too little too late. The offense managed to put runners on base all game but was not able to get them home. For the game USC left 12 runners on base including leaving the bases loaded an improbable 3 different innings.
For the first time in conference play South Carolina went into a Sunday game with the series in doubt. If anyone expected the team to struggle under the pressure, they were sorely disappointed. The Yardcocks appeared to take out Saturday’s frustration on the Bulldog pitching by scoring 14 runs on 11 hits. Each of the first 4 Mississippi State pitchers was tagged for multiple runs. Parker Bangs, Nick Ebert and Adrian Morales all went yard in the rout. Morales was especially effective going 2 for 4 with 3 runs and 3 RBIs. Pitcher Jay Brown, this week’s Sunday starter, lasted 3 innings, but wasn’t terribly effective in giving up 2 runs and allowing 6 runners to reach base. He was relieved by Matt Price who pitched superbly in 5 innings to get the win. Price struck out 6 and allowed only 2 hits and 0 runs.
What to take from the weekend…Saturday’s game was ugly, and many fans will remember that game as a cautionary tale of what can happen when this team isn’t hitting on all cylinders. I, for one, will remember the hammering the team responded with on Sunday. Following a failed come from behind attempt, many teams falter and despair. Great teams continue coming at their opponent the next inning whether that be in the next game or the next series or the next season. That resilient fight is what the Gamecocks brought to the game on Sunday, and although I’m not ready to say this team is a great team, they acted like one on Sunday, and that is what I will take from the weekend.
Stars of the weekend… Brady Thomas went 5 of 9 with a 2B, 2HR, 4 runs scored and 6 driven in…Whit Merrifield went 6 of 16 with a double, home run, 2 RBI and 4 runs scored…Jackie Bradley, Jr., drew 5 walks…Blake Cooper pitched 8 1/3 giving up 6 hits and 2 runs and striking out 7 and only walking one…Matt Price went 5 innings in relief giving up 0 runs and 2 hits.
This and that…South Carolina improved to 22-6 overall and 7-2 in the East…The Gamecocks lead the SEC East by 1 game over Florida and are tied for the conference lead with LSU…
Up next…On Wednesday the College of Charleston comes to town. Winners of 4 in a row the Cougars are no joke at 23-7. They beat Alabama once and swept a good Georgia Southern team over the weekend…. This weekend the Yardcocks travel to Nashville for a pivotal series against Vanderbilt. Currently Vanderbilt sits at 5-4, 2 games back of USC in the East.