South Carolina’s home field did not provide an advantage this time around.
For the first time since the 1976 season, the Gamecocks did not win the NCAA regional held in their ballpark. Maryland ended USC’s run of 13 consecutive regionals won at home with Sunday night’s 10-1 victory at Carolina Stadium.
USC’s season ends before Super Regional play for the first time since the 2009 season, when the Gamecocks traveled to East Carolina and lost to the Pirates. They finished this season with a 44-18 record.
“I’m proud of my team. Yeah, it was a good season, but good isn’t good enough around here. I understand that,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “We’ve got to do better than good. That’s going to be the attitude here as long as I’m the coach. South Carolina baseball is a special program.”
Maryland (39-21), which won all three of its games in the regional and defeated USC twice, advances to play the winner of the Charlottesville, Va., regional. The Terps won the first regional in the program history in their fourth NCAA tournament appearance. They last went to the tournament in 1971.
“It was a pretty incredible night for our grogram, for our athletic department and for the state of Maryland in general,” Maryland coach John Szefc said.
The Gamecocks simply couldn’t get their offense untracked when it counted. They collected nine hits but couldn’t manage a big one, as they left 10 runners on base. Maryland didn’t have that problem with a 13-hit attack that delivered time and again with runners on base.
“They were exceptional tonight. They played great defense, offense, they pitched. They beat us tonight,” Holbrook said. “When you get beat 10-1 in your own park, you’ve got to tip your cap. They thoroughly outplayed us. We just couldn’t get any momentum going after the first inning from a run-production standpoint.”
USC took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Kyle Martin’s two-out RBI double off Maryland left-hander Jake Drossner. But it was all downhill from there.
That lead stood until the fourth inning, when Maryland responded with a clutch two-out hit – Blake Schmit’s two-run single on an 0-2 offering from USC starter Joel Seddon (3-2), who normally serves as the team’s closer. The Terps never looked back, as Taylor Stiles (5-2) got the win in relief and Bobby Ruse closed the game out with his first save.
“It’s huge for our program,” Schmit said. “This has been our goal since the beginning of the year. We’re just really happy where we are right now. We’ve been putting together great ballgames. It’s a tough place to play, but we played great.”
USC coach Chad Holbrook wanted his best available pitcher on the mound in this important elimination game. Seddon, who saved 14 games this season, threw a season-high 84 pitches over 5 1/3 innings in his first start of the year. He allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out a season-high six batters.
“He pitched his heart out for us. He kept us in the game, which is what we asked him to do,” Holbrook said. “We just ran out of gas there at the end.”
Maryland scored in five of the last six innings as it pulled away against five USC relievers. That was frustrating for the veteran Gamecocks to watch.
“It’s definitely a tough one to swallow, just coming out and not performing our best on our home field in front of our home crowd,” Seddon said. “Nobody really wants to go out like this.”
Holbrook knew his team just didn’t do enough to win, stating that one run isn’t going to win a regional championship game. But he liked the effort he got from his players in an injury-riddled campaign.
“Our guys, over the course of the season, gave me all they had. They handled adversity, and they represented this program the right way,” he said.
In the first game of the day, a 9-0 win over Campbell, USC freshman right-hander Wil Crowe (8-3) threw a complete-game shutout to keep his team’s hopes alive to win the regional.
Campbell (41-21), which also lost to USC Friday night, sees its season end after winning its first NCAA tournament game in school history Saturday against Old Dominion.
Crowe gave up just four singles and walked none as he lowered his ERA to 2.75. He went start to finish on 101 pitches
“He was the story of this game,” Holbrook said. “He was as efficient as I’ve seen him with his command, with his fastball, breaking ball, changeup. He was in total control out there. It was a masterful performance by him to go nine innings. We obviously needed that with the circumstances coming out of the losers’ bracket.”
Crowe, who struck out four hitters in tossing his first complete game, wanted to save USC’s bullpen for the next game.
“I knew that we needed a good outing and that I needed to go deep in the game,” Crowe said. “So I went into it thinking that if I kept my pitch count down, then I could help the team out for later.”