South Carolina won nine of 10 times last season on Friday nights in SEC play on the way to a national championship. The Gamecocks equaled that Friday night loss total on their first SEC weekend this season.
Georgia rolled into Carolina Stadium and took a 4-2 victory, thanks in large part to a strong performance from left-hander Alex Wood and five USC errors.
The Bulldogs (9-9, 1-0 SEC) scored three runs in the first three innings off USC left-hander Michael Roth, and Wood made them stand up against the fourth-ranked Gamecocks (12-4, 0-1 SEC).
Wood (2-2), who defeated UCLA -- the other national finalist from a year ago -- last weekend in Los Angeles, gave up just seven hits and two walks while striking out six in his 8 1/3 innings.
“Alex Wood was very good. He was special tonight. He was able to move that fastball around. He kept us at bay,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “We didn’t play as well as you’d like to (play), of course, but again, take nothing away from Georgia and Alex Wood. We’d like to have played better, but we didn’t. They deserve all the credit for beating us.”
The teams traded runs in the ninth inning, with USC’s coming on a solo homer by Brady Thomas, but Georgia closer Tyler Maloof came on to record the final two outs with a man on base to pick up his seventh save. The final out came on Scott Wingo’s fly ball to deep right-center that was caught at the fence.
“We were fortunate. We caught some breaks. They didn’t play as well as they’ll play this weekend, I know that,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “It’s good to get started on the right note.”
Although the five errors only contributed to one unearned run, they did prolong Roth’s time on the mound. He ended up throwing a season-high 114 pitches in his 6 1/3 innings while losing his first game in five decisions.
The Bulldogs jumped on Roth for a pair of runs in the first inning. Zach Cone doubled in the first one after Levi Hyams reached on an infield single on a ball in the hole that USC shortstop Peter Mooney couldn’t handle cleanly. Georgia scored the second run when Mooney threw away a routine ground ball by Kyle Farmer. That was Mooney’s team-high seventh error of the season.
Mooney also went 0-for-4 at the plate with three strikeouts as his average dropped to .217. But Tanner vowed to stick by his highly-touted junior-college transfer.
“You have two options, you sit him down or you play him. He’s fighting it a little bit, but he’s going to play,” Tanner said. “He’s got to play his way out of it. He’s too good of a player to be scuffling as much as he is right now. I’m not going to sit him down.”
Third baseman Adrian Morales, who also made one of the five infield errors, was disappointed by the team’s performance.
“We should make those plays. We’re a great defensive team. It was just one of those nights,” Morales, who had two hits, including a third-inning RBI single. “It’s a little frustrating. We’ve just got to make better plays and help our pitching staff out.”
The Gamecocks appeared to get one of the runs back in their half of the first inning when Christian Walker drilled a ball to right field that looked as if it bounded off the metal fence above the yellow line at the top of the fence. But the umpires ruled the ball stayed in the ballpark, and Walker had to settle for a triple. Morales then struck out to end the inning.
Georgia upped its lead to 3-0 in the third inning.
“It was big for us when we got to an early lead. That definitely gave me a little confidence,” Wood said.
Perno agreed the early runs helped his team in a hostile environment of 8,069 fans.
“(That) settled us in and let us relax a little bit,” he said.
But the Gamecocks refuse to let the Friday night loss weigh too heavily on them.
“It’s not the end of the weekend,” Roth said. “We still have two games. We can still win the series. We just have to shake off tonight.”
Tanner is already looking ahead to the next 29 SEC games.
“That’s only one,” he said “You’ve got to forget about it and come back and play. We didn’t play our best game. This is a league where you punch each other.”
The teams play the second game of the series at 4 p.m. Saturday. USC left-hander Steven Neff (2-0, 3.07) will face Georgia right-hander Michael Palazzone (2-1, 3.13).
Ray Tanner postgame
|Curt Powell 3b||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||1||0|
|Levi Hyams 2b||4||1||3||1||1||0||2||3||0|
|Zach Cone cf||4||1||1||1||0||1||3||0||0|
|Chase Davidson rf||4||0||1||0||1||1||2||0||1|
|Conor Welton pr/lf||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kyle Farmer ss||5||0||0||0||0||1||0||4||5|
|Jonathan Hester 1b||4||0||0||0||0||2||12||0||3|
|Brett DeLoach dh||3||0||0||0||1||2||0||0||0|
|Brandon Stephens c||4||0||0||0||0||1||6||1||1|
|Peter Verdin lf/rf||4||1||2||0||0||2||1||0||0|
|Alex Wood p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||0|
|Tyler Maloof p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||0||0||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Jackie Bradley Jr. cf||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||0|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||0||1||0||0||0||9||1||0|
|Adrian Morales 3b||4||0||2||1||0||1||0||2||1|
|Jake Williams dh||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Brady Thomas c||4||1||2||1||0||0||11||0||0|
|Evan Marzilli lf||2||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||0|
|Greg Brodzinski ph||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Robert Beary lf||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Peter Mooney ss||4||0||0||0||0||3||1||3||1|
|Scott Wingo 2b||4||1||1||0||0||1||3||5||1|
|Michael Roth p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|John Taylor p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Logan Munson p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jose Mata p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
E - Walker(4); Morales(2); Mooney(7); Roth(1); Taylor(1). DP - S. Carolina 1. LOB - UGA 10; S. Carolina 7. 2B - Cone(2). 3B - Walker(1). HR - Thomas(2). HBP - Cone. SH - Powell(2). SB - Hyams(3).
|Alex Wood W,2-2||8.1||7||2||2||2||6||0||0||0||0||32||34||8||11||107|
|Tyler Maloof S,7||0.2||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||2||2||1||0||10|
|Michael Roth L,4-1||6.1||6||3||2||2||8||0||0||0||0||27||29||3||7||114|
Win - Wood (2-2). Loss - Roth (4-1). Save - Maloof (7). HBP - by Mata (Cone). Pitches/strikes: Wood 107/71; Maloof 10/6; Roth 114/74; Taylor 27/16; Munson 4/2; Mata 7/5.
Umpires - HP: Scott Kennedy 1B: Keith Sanders 3B: Tony Walsh
Start: 7:01 pm
Munson faced 1 batter in the 9th.