The South Carolina baseball team has been in a rut. After sweeping a very good Florida team in Columbia, the Gamecocks lost a home series to Auburn, got swept on the road against the Kentucky Wildcats, and lost another road series against Arkansas. During the mid-week, Carolina dropped both Tuesday contests during the same stretch, two home games against North Florida and Charlotte.
Because of the skid, the once obvious national seed South Carolina baseball program fell out of top-8 contention and entered the season finale series against Tennessee fighting for a chance to even host a regional site. The Volunteers were in a similar position to the Gamecocks (though the Vols had been playing much better than the ‘Cocks in recent weeks) as both teams were considered some of the final candidates to host a regional.
The weather was a factor in the Thursday through Saturday series with rain canning the series’ opening game and forcing a Saturday doubleheader (two 7-inning games).
Game 1 (played on Friday) was all Vols as the Gamecocks could only must three total hits on the evening. Eli Jones didn’t have his best stuff on the mound as he allowed 11 base runners over 4 innings. The 4 runs allowed by Jones were more than enough for the Vols to cruise to a series-opening win as Tony Vitello’s team blanked the YardCocks 5-0 for the team’s first shutout of the season. Andrew Lindsey pitched very well for Tennessee, just two outs from a complete game, and Hunter Ensley logged 4 hits and 3 RBI.
The first leg of the Saturday doubleheader started strong for the Gamecocks as Braylen Wimmer smacked a 1st inning homer to give Carolina an early 1-0 lead, and Jack Mahoney had untouchable stuff early. He struck out 5 Vols through 3 innings, including K-ing the side in the 3rd after twisting his ankle. The Gamecocks had a big 6th after Vitello removed Chase Dollander from the game, and five straight hits gave USC a 6-1 lead. In relief of the brilliant Mahoney, Nick Proctor shut the door in the 7th to secure the win.
The Saturday evening regular season finale started at 5:00. Both Matthew Becker and Drew Beam pitched well through 3 innings. Becker gave up a 4-spot in the 4th, and Cole Messina got one back with a solo shot in the bottom half of the frame. Unfortunately, that would be all the Gamecock offense could put together as the Vols added two more before a 6-run 7th gave the visitors the win by a final score of 12-1.
The SEC Tournament will begin on Tuesday, May 23rd. Every game will be aired on the SECNetwork. South Carolina baseball will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the single-elimination portion of the Tournament, starting at 10:30.