South Carolina will, at worst, finish the weekend tied for first in the SEC after three conference series, but the Gamecocks missed out on a golden opportunity to make a statement Saturday at Vanderbilt.
USC led 4-1 in the fifth inning and was in prime position to clinch its third straight series win over a top-15 team when defense let the Gamecocks down.
Despite back-to-back doubles to open the fifth, USC could have escaped with a 4-2 lead had it not misplayed two balls in the outfield. Instead, Carolina lost momentum and finished the inning trailing 6-4.
“We had the opportunity to win the series today against a really good opponent, and we didn’t play the defense we normally play,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said.
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Winds were gusting at more than 20 miles per hour in Nashville, but left fielder Dom Thompson-Williams and right fielder TJ Hopkins didn’t make plays that they should have, according to Holbrook.
Thompson-Williams, who dropped a routine fly ball, said wind was an issue during practice in Nashville leading up to the series.
“We came in here (Wednesday) and we practiced out here and we struggled with pop ups,” he said. “We knew that was going to be a huge thing, and unfortunately today that didn’t go as planned. The environment was different. We’re not used to this wind in Columbia.”
While Holbrook is disappointed, at 24-5 overall and 7-2 in the SEC, he knows that the Gamecocks are in good position moving forward, especially with upcoming series against Tennessee, Georgia and Missouri – teams USC will be favored against.
Still, he knows the Gamecocks let a big opportunity slip through their gloves Saturday.
“I walk out of here feeling good about what we’ve done through nine SEC games, what we’ve done through the first half of the season. We’re looking forward to the second half because we’ve put ourselves in a good spot,” Holbrook said. “We had six games on the road and two of them against top six teams. …With that being said, 8-1 is a lot better than 7-2, and we had a chance to be that. I’m going to lose a lot of sleep tonight thinking about that, what could have been.”