South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks pick up needed win for postseason hopes

South Carolina baseball was in a must-win situation in the single-elimination round of the SEC Tournament, and the Gamecocks delivered a win over Alabama.
South Carolina baseball has not had a strong history at the SEC Tournament in Hoover
South Carolina baseball has not had a strong history at the SEC Tournament in Hoover / Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

South Carolina baseball entered Tuesday as one of five SEC teams sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble at 13-17 in conference play. The Gamecocks, Florida Gators, Vanderbilt Commodores, LSU Tigers, and Alabama Crimson Tide shared that dubious distinction, and adding to the drama of the first round of the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Carolina matched up with one of those fellow bubble squads.

The Alabama Crimson Tide needed a win just as badly as Mark Kingston's team on Tuesday. The two teams would all but seal a spot in the postseason with a victory but would find it difficult to make the 64-team field without one, especially after LSU dispatched the Georgia Bulldogs in the first game of the SEC Tournament.

Dylan Eskew took the mound first for the Gamecocks, and he didn't have it. The right-hander gave up 3 runs in just 1 1/3 innings (a Parker Noland error didn't help), and then lefty Matthew Becker allowed two base runners that became another pair of Alabama runs after a pitching change. Thankfully for the Gamecocks, the lineup was ready for the challenge of coming from behind. By the time Chris Veach's official line started in the 4th inning, the Carolina offense had already taken the lead 6-5.

The USC scoring didn't get started until the 3rd inning, but that frame was a huge one for the Gamecocks. Solo homers from Gavin Casas and Ethan Petry got things started, but the game busted wide open when Dalton Reeves added a grand slam to bring the inning's scoring tally to 6 runs.

Even when the Crimson Tide responded with 2 more runs to cut the lead to just 1, Carolina didn't blink. In the 5th and 6th frames, Gamecock catcher Cole Messina hit a solo home run and a 2-run double. Even when things didn't go as planned, Mark Kingston's team found home plate as they scored on a double-play ball in the 8th inning.

Veach was tremendous in relief for the Gamecocks as he kept the 'Tide from scoring after the inherited runners in the 4th, securing a 10-5 victory. The Columbia-area native pitched the rest of the game, allowing 0 runs and just 3 hits as he struck out 6 and walked 0. Nearly as important as his dominant pitching keeping Alabama off the scoreboard, Veach also saved the USC bullpen, meaning that the Gamecocks would have more arms available for Wednesday's game.

South Carolina baseball will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday in the same time slot. A morning game that begins at 10:30 AM EST will be played before the 'Cocks and Hogs link up on the diamond. The game likely will begin between 2:00 and 2:30 PM EST and will be broadcast on the SEC Network and streamed on the ESPN app.

The win definitely extends Carolina's season by at least two more games (the double-elimination portion of the SEC Tournament starts next), and it likely will push the Gamecocks into a relatively safe place in the NCAA Tournament selection hierarchy. The SEC tourney will continue through the weekend, and the NCAA Tournament selection show will be on Monday.


Next. South Carolina Baseball: Ranking the greatest pitchers in Gamecock history. South Carolina Baseball: Ranking the greatest pitchers in Gamecock history. dark