South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks win again, will meet up with red-hot LSU

South Carolina baseball matched up with the Arkansas Razorbacks in their second game of the SEC Tournament and won again.
South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston
South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston / Angelina Alcantar/News Sentinel / USA

South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston and his team needed a win on Tuesday to feel good about their chances to make the NCAA Tournament, and the Gamecocks delivered, knocking off the Alabama Crimson Tide 10-5 behind the long ball and a dominant relief effort from Chris Veach.

Their reward for the win was a game against the SEC West champion Arkansas Razorbacks, the 2-seed in Hoover. Starting pitcher Eli Jones entered with a little more confidence than one might expect after his recent struggles because he had a good start against the Hogs back in April.

That confidence translated to another good outing early. Jones gave up just three hits and a run through the game's first third. In the 4th inning, though, a leadoff walk followed by a Jones throwing error allowed the tying run to score on a sacrifice fly. Ty Good entered in relief of Jones and limited the damage.

The offense wasn't spectacular, but they were good enough. Two 2-out walks were followed by a Parker Noland single in the 1st inning to push across the game's first run, and a beautifully executed hit-and-run by Cole Messina in the 3rd frame put Carolina back ahead after Arkansas' first run.

The red-hot Cole Messina put his team back on top with a 2-run blast in the 5th inning, and the bomb was his 7th consecutive time reaching base (1B, HR, 2B, BB, BB, 1B, HR).

Ty Good was...well...good as the piggyback to Jones, but the right-hander got into some trouble in the 7th. With two runners on, Garrett Gainey came in, and the lefty allowed the inherited runners to score on a first-pitch double and a sacrifice fly. It would have been worse, but Ethan Petry (freshly moved from first base to right field) made a diving catch in the outfield that limited the ball hit to right to a sacrifice instead of extra bases. The score was tied 4-4.

Gainey returned to form after that, dominating Arkansas in the 8th with a pair of strikeouts and a flyout. Then, in the top of the 9th, against one of the very best freshmen relievers in the nation, that man delivered again. On a ball on the outer third of the plate, Cole Messina took Gabe Gaeckle deep to center field. It was the first long ball Gaeckle had given up in his entire career. Because Blake Jackson was on base, Carolina took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the 9th.

Gainey got into trouble in the 9th and surrendered a run. However, he managed to escape without any further issues (other than a replay delay), and the Gamecocks won 6-5.

Mark Kingston's South Carolina baseball club is sure to find themselves in the NCAA Tournament now, but before that, they have a date with the scorching-hot LSU Tigers. Cole Messina has been even hotter, though, as he is now 6-8 with 2 walks and 3 home runs in the Gamecocks' pair of games in the SEC Tourney.

The two teams formerly on the postseason bubble find themselves, instead, in the winner's bracket of the SEC Tournament. The matchup will begin at about 5:30 PM EST on Thursday (the game will begin 30 minutes after the previous two games end). It will be broadcast on the SEC Network and streamed on the ESPN app.


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