South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks blow late lead, squander another Cole Messina masterclass to lose to LSU Tigers

South Carolina baseball lost to the LSU Tigers in the SEC Tournament. They will play again on Friday.
South Carolina baseball catcher Cole Messina
South Carolina baseball catcher Cole Messina / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

South Carolina baseball couldn't have been playing much worse heading into the SEC Tournament. After two series sweeps at the hands of the rival Georgia Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers, USC had gone from a likely Regional host to the NCAA Tournament bubble, and they drew a first-round tournament matchup against a team that had already beaten them in a series earlier in the year.

That seems like a lifetime ago.

The Gamecocks beat the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, they beat the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday (another team that took a series from them earlier in the year), and on Thursday, they matched up with one of the hottest teams in the country as they faced off with the LSU Tigers in the winner's bracket of the SEC Tournament.

Freshman Tyler Pitzer drew the start in the game and gave up 3 runs over 3 innings (the defense let him down a few times), and fellow freshman Jake McCoy followed suit by allowing 3 more before the 5th inning ended. Thankfully for the Carolina youngsters, the Gamecock offense came ready to play.

Cole Messina, the hottest bat in the baseball world, remained engulfed in metaphoric flames as he smacked a grand slam in the 3rd frame to bring Carolina's count to 5 runs. The Gamecocks kept getting on base and bringing those runners home, too, scoring 5 more runs by the time the 6th inning ended.

Messina hit a 2-run double in that 6th inning, setting an all-time single SEC Tournament record for RBI. His 14 runs batted in is a number that has never been beaten, and he accomplished the feat in just three games.

The Gamecock defense continued to struggle late in the game, though, as they had their 3rd and 4th errors of the game in the 8th inning. LSU crossed home plate twice in the frame, and what had felt like a pretty safe lead suddenly was not.

Despite getting two base runners in the bottom of the 8th, South Carolina couldn't score, and they took a 10-9 lead into the top of the 9th. Chris Veach was tired but was left in the game, and he gave up a lot of hard contact in the inning, including three balls caught on the warning track (Blake Jackson and Austin Brinling might find themselves on SportsCenter for their catches).

Unfortunately, one of those deep balls came with a runner on 3rd base, allowing the tying run to score on a sacrifice fly. Then, as every paranoid South Carolina baseball fan feared, former Gamecock Michael Braswell came to the plate with the winning run in scoring position.

He hit a weak groundball past third baseman Talmadge LeCroy (a player who started over the versatile infielder Braswell in Columbia last year), and LSU took an 11-10 lead. The Gamecocks went out with a whimper after that as only Dylan Brewer had much fight in his at-bat in the 9th. Three other Gamecocks popped out, and Mark Kingston's crew was shifted rudely to the loser's bracket.

Carolina will play again on Friday against the Kentucky Wildcats at 4:00 PM ET. The game will be on the SEC Network and ESPN app.


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