South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks overcome errors, win first game of NCAA Tournament

South Carolina baseball won its first game of the NCAA Tournament over James Madison to advance to the winners' bracket of the Raleigh Regional.
South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston
South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

The Raleigh Regional began on Friday, and South Carolina baseball's first NCAA Tournament game against the James Madison Dukes was another ugly watch, much like last week's SEC Tournament run.

In the game, the Gamecocks committed another 4 errors (2 by Talmadge LeCroy), had a couple more defensive miscues that should have been called errors, couldn't line up properly at times on defense, had a runner picked off at 1st base twice, failed to advance on the bases on would-be wild pitches, and couldn't take advantage of poor pitching at critical moments. Even with all of those very bad and very real factors weighing them down on Friday, the Gamecocks found themselves in an extra-innings thriller.

Eli Jones should have gotten through the 1st inning unscathed, but a LeCroy error resulted in an unearned run crossing the plate. The Gamecocks tied things up 1-1 in the 3rd, but in an inning in which they managed a hit, a walk, and 2 HBPs, getting just 1 run didn't feel like a good enough effort.

Jones was cruising through the Dukes' batting order until a walk and bunt single prompted head coach Mark Kingston and pitching coach Matt Williams to take him out of the game. The move didn't work out as Ty Good couldn't keep the two inherited runners from reaching their intended destinations and then allowed another to score, giving JMU a 4-1 lead.

In the bottom half of the inning, Will Tippett hit a solo home run, and Blake Jackson hit a 2-run laser over the wall in right field to tie the score. The Gamecocks weren't playing well overall, but with more than half of the game played, things still were tied.

In the 6th, the bad day for LeCroy continued as he had another error that came around to score and had two positioning mistakes at 3rd (he was playing up on the grass with 2 outs, allowing a bloop hit to fall behind him and a grounder to get past him) that resulted in 2 more runs scoring off of reliever Chris Veach. He had another error in the 7th, but the official scorekeeper felt some pity for the young man and ruled it a single.

A Kennedy Jones solo homer cut the deficit to 2 runs, but the Gamecocks found themselves still trailing by 2 runs and down to their last out in the 9th with Blake Jackson at the plate. The savvy veteran took an HBP, and after walking the man 3 times earlier in the game, James Madison decided to challenge the Moose.

That proved to be a mistake as Cole Messina blasted a 1st-pitch fastball way over the fence in left field, tying the game 7-7. The hottest hitter in America delivered again and sent the game into extra innings.

Chris Veach delivered a scoreless 10th to finish off his 4 2/3 innings on the bump, and Kennedy Jones led off the bottom of the 10th with a walk. Dalton Reeves fanned, but Talmadge LeCroy got down a bunt, and it was the Dukes' turn to commit a throwing error, allowing Jones to reach 3rd and LeCroy to get to 2nd with just 1 out.

Dylan Brewer pinch-ran for Jones to provide some more speed for the potential winning run in the event of a grounder up the middle or a fly ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly. Will Tippett stepped to the plate and delivered the needed fly ball to center, and Brewer strolled home to win the game 8-7.

The Gamecocks had snatched a victory from the jaws of what seemed like an inevitable, error-filled, self-inflicted defeat. No matter how not-so-great it looked and felt at times, South Carolina baseball won the game, and that is what matters in the postseason.

The lineup had a pretty good day, and if a few Gamecock mistakes in the field would have been called errors as they should have been, the pitching stats wouldn't have been bad, either. Even with the abysmal effort on defense and the bases, Cole Messina's heroics in the 9th and solid (dare it be called "fundamental??") baseball in the 10th gave South Carolina baseball a win and vaulted them into the winners' bracket of the Raleigh Regional.

Because of the win, Carolina will play at 6:00 PM ET on Saturday against the winner of Friday night's contest between 1-seed NC State and 4-seed Bryant. Early reports about television/streaming information indicated the game would be available only on ESPN+, but Friday's broadcast indicated that could change.


Next. South Carolina Baseball: Another Gamecock pitcher hits transfer portal ahead of NCAA Tournament. South Carolina Baseball: Another Gamecock pitcher hits transfer portal ahead of NCAA Tournament. dark