South Carolina began the SEC West half of the schedule with a trip to Starkville. The Gamecocks defeated the Bulldogs two games to one by scores of 8-2, 3-5 and 13-4.
Breaking it down…Michael Roth was the usual Friday night starter, but he didn't have his usual Friday night stuff. After Adrian Morales's double scored Christian Walker to give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead, Mississippi State tied the game in the bottom of the first. A walk, passed ball and bunt put the lead off runner on third; a single scored him to tie the game. The Gamecocks responded in the second with two runs on Robert Beary's double. MSU got one run back with a solo home run in the bottom of the second. After that, Roth and the bullpen didn't give up much. The Bulldogs only had 3 more hits and no more runs. USC's offense added 2 in the 4th on Evan Marzilli's 2 run home run; one in the fifth on Peter Mooney's RBI single; 1 in the sixth when Jake Williams came around to score after a lead off double, and one in the 9th when Mooney doubled in Walker. The final was 8-2.
Saturday started off quietly for both offenses. The Bulldogs took the lead with a two run inning in the third inning. With two outs and no one on base, they used three straight singles and a fielding error to plate two runs. South Carolina immediately responded in the top of the fourth. An error on the third baseman scored Walker, and Robert Beary singled two runs home to give the lead back to USC. In the sixth, Mississippi State got 3 runs of their own. After a lead off hit by pitch, John Taylor relieved Colby Holmes. Taylor threw wide of first base after fielding a bunt to put runners on second and third. Bryan Harper relieved Taylor shortly thereafter. Harper couldn't get out of the inning, so Jose Mata came in. Mata stopped the bleeding but not before the Bulldogs had the lead again. The Gamecocks couldn't push any runs across in their last three at bats, and left 5 on base in that span.
On Sunday the Gamecocks played a rubber match with some adversity. Adam Matthews didn't make the trip; Jackie Bradley Jr. hurt his wrist and was out, and Evan Marzilli was out with an undisclosed illness. They didn't play like they were missing them though. Peter Mooney singled to start the game. He stole second and scored on Scott Wingo's triple. Christian Walker followed with a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-0. Mississippi State didn't answer until the bottom of the third. The Bulldogs strung together three singles, a RBI ground out and a double to take a 3-2 lead. John Taylor came in for Forrest Koumas and induced an inning ending fly out. The Gamecocks tried to answer, but it looked like the opportunity to score might slip away when they had runners on the corners and two out. Christian Walker hit a RBI single, and Brady Thomas followed with one of his own. Miss State switched pitchers, and Jake Williams and Adrian Morales each hit RBI singles, too. At the end of the inning the Gamecocks had regained the lead 6-3. MSU couldn't respond in the bottom of the fourth, and USC broke it open with 5 runs in the top of the fifth. Thomas highlighted the inning with a three RBI triple. Mississippi State got one run back in the seventh before South Carolina brought Matt Price into the game. Walker hit a two run home run in the top of the ninth, and Price closed the door.
Stars of the Series…Christian Walker…10-11, 2B, HR, 4 RBI…Brady Thomas…6-15, 3B, 4 RBI…Jake Williams…6-14 2B, 2 RBI…Michael Roth…W, 6.1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 2 HBP, 3 H…
This and that…South Carolina improves to 31-8 and 14-4 on the year…Christian Walker's batting average was .909 for the weekend…Double Plays: SC 3, MS 2…Left on Base: SC 29, MS 31… Hits: SC 39, MS 25…Errors: SC 4, MS 3…Scott Wingo's hit streak ended after 12 games on Friday...
What to take from the Weekend…This was a nice road win. There are many things you could look at and wonder what they will mean for the rest of the season. Colby Holmes and Forrest Koumas didn't have their best outings of the year, so you could wonder if that is going to be OK. The bats exploded on Friday and Sunday, so you could wonder if that will be a good sign going forward. Christian Walker hit everything that was thrown to him, so you could wonder if he is getting ready to go on a tear. The bull pen wasn't as perfect as it had been the rest of the season; is that going to be a problem? All of those would be valid points to take from the weekend, but there is one thing you have to take from this weekend: this is one tough team.
Going into Sunday's game it would be hard to blame this team if they mailed it in and hurried back to Columbia. They had a frustrating loss the night before, and they were playing without Adam Matthews again. They lost Jackie Bradley Jr to a wrist injury and then unexpectedly lost Evan Marzilli as well. Miss State was looking to get into the SEC West race; USC was going to be fine in the East even with a loss. None of that affected the team. They came out, played hard and blew out Mississippi State in a rubber match, and it was great to listen to. Few teams have the guts, will power and talent to put on the kind of display we saw on Sunday.
You begin rooting for the team because it's your school and you're going to root for whoever is on the team. And then the team has days like Sunday, and the players show you who they are, and you know that you're going to be rooting for these guys wherever they go and whatever they do. That's what you should take away from this weekend: this is one special team.
Up next…The Gamecocks play at home on Tuesday at 1 pm against Liberty. The game was scheduled because the rained out game against Davidson couldn't be rescheduled. It's $1 hotdog day if you go. The weekend series is at home against Auburn. There are two night games a 7 and then Sunday at 3. All three games are televised: Friday and Saturday on SportSouth and Sunday on ESPN.