South Carolina Baseball: Gamecock struggles continue as season in danger of spiraling

South Carolina baseball lost another series this weekend, a three-game sweep at home against Texas A&M.
South Carolina baseball second baseman Parker Noland
South Carolina baseball second baseman Parker Noland / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

South Carolina baseball is struggling in a major way.

The Gamecocks have won just one series against opponents from power conferences this season. It began with a 2-0 series loss to the rival Clemson Tigers (one game was rained out), and it continued with 2-1 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels and Alabama Crimson Tide. Only a home sweep of the Vanderbilt Commodores has kept this season from becoming a downright disaster as the 'Dores played horribly all weekend in Columbia.

This weekend didn't seem as if it would be a good one for Carolina. After an embarrassing 8-0 shutout to Georgia Southern on Wednesday, the vibes around the program were low heading into a home series with the top-5 Texas A&M Aggies.

Those vibes proved to be predictive as the Gamecocks did not turn around their season against the Aggies.

In game 1 of the series, top starter Eli Jones was roughed up as he gave up 4 runs in the 1st inning and was responsible for 3 more scoring in the 3rd. In contrast, A&M pitcher Ryan Prager diced up the strikeout-heavy Gamecock offense as he logged 12 of the game's 17 Ks in his 6 1/3 innings pitched. He fanned 9 out of 10 Gamecocks at one point, including 3 looking.

Outside of a Talmadge LeCroy home run that just squeaked inside the foul pole, the Gamecocks did not threaten to score other than a bases-loaded situation in the 7th inning. With just one out, Carolina plated only one run, ending any thought of a comeback. The defense was abysmal, too, but they were only charged with two errors as Will Tippett and Blake Jackson (twice) were bailed out by the official scorer. The final score was 9-2 as the Gamecocks managed just 6 hits for the game.

Game 2 started similarly to the series opener as Tyler Pitzer surrendered 3 runs in the 1st inning. After a missed opportunity for an out on a foul ball, Pitzer allowed the first three batters to reach base, including a home run to Gavin Grahovac. After Pitzer exited the game down 4-0, Ty Good was outstanding in relief, keeping USC in the game with 5 2/3 excellent innings without an earned run. Though the relievers allowed just 1 earned run over the final 6 2/3 innings, the offense couldn't come back to make things competitive.

With a dismal 14 strikeouts compared to just 1 walk, the South Carolina bats couldn't get much going despite 9 hits. Only Dalton Reeves and Talmadge LeCroy reached base more than once, and other than a pinch-hit homer from Gavin Casas and a leadoff double from Parker Noland, the Gamecocks didn't have any real threats outside of their 2-run 3rd inning and lost 6-3.

The series finale on Sunday started off better for the Gamecocks as a 2-run home run from Ethan Petry gave Carolina its first lead of the weekend. Kennedy Jones launched another in the 3rd inning before the YardCocks picked up 2 runs in a bases-loaded situation in the 4th. They were only able to scratch across one final run in two separate bases-loaded opportunities later in the game, though, as they left 12 men on base. Ethan Petry and Gavin Casas each had 3 hits in the contest.

Matthew Becker got the start and pitched very well, giving up just 1 run over 4 innings as he struck out 8 Aggies. The bullpen duo of Chris Veach and Garrett Gainey each surrendered 2 runs as the home run-happy A&M offense smacked two more balls over the wall. In the end, though, the bullpen held back the powerful offense just enough to secure the victory by a score of 6-5.

Cole Messina suffered a concussion in game 1 (but was left in the game), so he did not play in the final two games of the series. In the final two games of the series, Lee Ellis replaced Will Tippett in the starting lineup. However, Tippett came in for Ellis in the finale. With his struggles this year, it will be interesting to monitor what Coach Kingston and his staff do at shortstop.

The Gamecocks' win on Sunday kept the fanbase from spiraling completely, but the continued struggles have caused a strange sense of apathy to set in across many in Gamecock Nation. In year 7 of the Mark Kingston era, the Gamecocks' head coach still has a combined losing record in SEC play and a losing record against Clemson, and South Carolina baseball has made it past Regional play just twice while on pace potentially to miss the NCAA Tournament altogether this season.

To avoid that fate, the Gamecocks will have to bounce back with a continually difficult schedule ahead of them. In the mid-week, USC will take on their border rivals to the north as they play against North Carolina in Charlotte. Then, they must travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators.




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