South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks lose series to Ole Miss to start SEC play

South Carolina baseball had a bad weekend in Oxford, falling to the Rebels in the opening two games of the series before bouncing back in game 3.

South Carolina baseball third baseman Talmadge LeCroy
South Carolina baseball third baseman Talmadge LeCroy / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

South Carolina baseball had won 6 games in a row (against bad teams) heading into their SEC conference play-opening season against Ole Miss. In fact, the Gamecocks had gone 14-1 on the year against overmatched teams. They only played two games against a quality opponent (against the rival Clemson Tigers), and poor offensive performance doomed them to an 0-2 record in those games.

When Mark Kingston's team arrived in Oxford, Mississippi, they knew they would meet up with the second-best team on the schedule through this point of the season. Ole Miss is not likely to finish in the top-half of the conference in 2024, but they are a postseason team with enough talent to beat a top-25 South Carolina baseball squad if they play poorly.

And through the first two games of the series, "play poorly" is exactly what they did.

The Gamecocks got a solid outing from Eli Jones on Friday night as both he and Ole Miss starter Gunnar Dennis gave up 3 runs over 5 innings. After the bullpens got involved, USC only scored one unearned run thanks to a scoring error, while Ole Miss scored 2 off of reliever Chris Veach.

The Gamecocks lost because could not get the bats going, just like during the Clemson series. Carolina hit 2-15 with runners on base in the game 1 defeat, and they finished the game with just 6 total base hits and a 3-11 BB-K ratio. Preseason All-American Ethan Petry wore the golden sombrero, going 0-4 with 4 punchouts in the 4-5 loss.

Game 2 was worse. Though they picked up one more hit with a runner on base (going 3-15 on Saturday), it was still a pathetic showing on offense to go with a much worse pitching performance. Dylan Eskew gave up more runs than he had strikeouts, and after Ty Good was very good for 2 1/3 innings, the rest of the Carolina 'pen imploded, surrendering 8 runs in the 8th inning to lose 12-3.

Liam Doyle, a former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer, had a career-high 10 strikeouts in just 5 1/3 innings as the Ole Miss staff fanned the Gamecocks 15 times in the game. With just 3 walks, South Carolina wasn't manufacturing base runners to make up for that poor situational hitting. Andrew Fischer outdid the entire USC offense himself with 3 home runs and 5 RBI. It is worth noting that Kennedy Jones had a good day (3-4 with a home run and a double) and that Ethan Petry hit a homer.

The series finale was better. Roman Kimball started the game and got into a little bit of a jam in the 2nd due to walks. However, Matthew Becker got out of the jam and then dominated for several innings. He wound up surrendering a couple of runs, but he still gave up a more-than-respectable 2 runs over 5 1/3 innings. Garrett Gainey closed the game out as Ole Miss never really threatened.

The offense was also better on Sunday as the Gamecocks finished the game with 11 hits and 5 walks as they had more base runners than in games 1 or 2. 6 Gamecocks reached base multiple times, and Tyler Causey added an opposite-field homer to open the scoring. Blake Jackson also added a SportsCenter-worthy highlight in left field, diving to make a grab near the line to help preserve the 6-2 win.

Kennedy Jones was the top offensive player in the series. He reached base at least twice in all three games and 9 times total, including 2 doubles and a home run. Eli Jones was good as the starter on Friday, and Parker Marlatt, Ty Good, Matthew Becker, and Garrett Gainey provided nice efforts in relief.

South Carolina baseball could fall out of some top-25 rankings after losing the series to start SEC play. However, they will have their opportunity to bounce back next week against top-10 Vanderbilt in Columbia.




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