South Carolina coach Ray Tanner called Sunday’s game against Mississippi State a “fork in the road” moment.
Playing without two regular starters in outfielders Jackie Bradley and Evan Marzilli (see sidebar), South Carolina still beat Mississippi State 13-4 to win the SEC series.
The win, propelled by John Taylor’s four-inning relief appearance, keeps the Gamecocks (31-8, 14-4 SEC) tied for first place in the East with Vanderbilt and Florida.
“You can go one way or the other,” Tanner said. “We had every reason in the world not to be able to win. We had some guys injured, we were thin. Our opening day outfield, two were on the bench and one was in Columbia. We were challenged, but we can battle our rear ends off and get in a position to win.”
Jake Williams and Christian Walker had four hits apiece for USC while designated hitter Brady Thomas had three hits and four RBIs as the Gamecocks forced Mississippi State (24-16, 7-11) to use six pitchers.
Walker’s big performance was capped by a two-run home run to left in the top of the ninth inning. Walker was 10-for-11 with four walks in the series thanks to some extra prep work on the bus ride from Columbia to Starkville.
“The coaches went over a few things on film,” Walker said. “It wasn’t anything to serious, but a little thing here and there and it made a difference.”
South Carolina took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI triple by Scott Wingo and a sacrifice fly by Walker. Mississippi State then rallied for three runs in the third inning off USC pitcher Forrest Koumas, who was pulled with two outs in the inning for Taylor.
Taylor (3-1) went on to allow one earned run in four innings, the longest outing of his career. It came the day after Taylor was charged with the loss in Saturday’s game after his throwing error allowed two runs to score.
Taylor was relieved in the seventh inning by Matt Price, who struck out four batters in 2 1/3 innings.
“(The coaching staff) told me to go to the pen early because Price hadn’t thrown all weekend and they wanted to get him some innings,” Taylor said. “I was just ready to go in and do my job.”
DeSean Anderson and Steven Neff played in center and left field, respectively, in place of Bradley and Marzilli. Anderson was 3-for-4 with a run at the plate.
Deven Jones (2-5), who allowed four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning, picked up the loss for Mississippi State.
“We can make an excuse and say ‘we have two guys out, we expect to lose,’ ” Williams said. “Or we can handle the adversity and win no matter what. (Tanner) set the mood quickly, so there was no bad feelings in the dugout. We all knew we could play.”
Florida beat Alabama and Vanderbilt beat LSU to keep pace with South Carolina in the SEC East. The top four teams in the East are above .500 while in the West, Mississippi at 9-9 is in first place.
Tanner said it was an emotional win that meant a lot to him, even among all the games he has coached. The Gamecocks will play host to Liberty at 1 p.m. Tuesday before a three-game home SEC series against Auburn.
“Today was a great win for us, but we’re still gonna face the same obstacles on Tuesday at 1 o’clock,” Tanner said.
#2 South Carolina at Mississippi State
Apr 24, 2011 at Starkville, Miss. (Polk-Dement Stadium)
South Carolina 13 (31-8,14-4 SEC)
|Peter Mooney ss||4||2||1||0||0||0||4||1||1|
|Scott Wingo 2b||4||3||1||2||0||0||2||6||0|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||3||4||4||1||0||7||0||0|
|Brady Thomas dh||6||2||3||4||0||1||0||0||0|
|Jake Williams rf||6||0||4||2||0||0||2||0||0|
|Adrian Morales 3b||4||0||1||1||1||1||0||1||1|
|Steven Neff lf||5||0||0||0||0||1||3||0||6|
|DeSean Anderson cf||4||1||3||0||1||1||1||0||0|
|Robert Beary c||4||2||1||0||1||0||8||0||1|
|Forrest Koumas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|John Taylor p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Matt Price p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Mississippi State 4 (24-16,7-11 SEC)
|C.T. Bradford cf||5||0||2||0||0||0||4||1||0|
|Cody Freeman dh||5||1||2||0||0||1||0||0||2|
|Jarrod Parks 3b||4||2||2||0||0||2||0||1||2|
|Trey Johnson lf||5||1||1||1||0||2||3||0||3|
|Wes Thigpen c||3||0||0||1||0||0||6||0||0|
|Ryan Collins 1b||4||0||3||1||1||0||8||0||0|
|Jonathan Ogden ss||3||0||1||1||1||0||1||3||1|
|Adam Frazier 2b||5||0||0||0||0||1||0||3||3|
|Jaron Shepherd rf||4||0||1||0||0||2||5||0||2|
|Daryl Norris p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Chad Girodo p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Devin Jones p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Victor Diaz p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Taylor Stark p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kendall Graveman p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Score by Innings||R||H||E|
|South Carolina||200 450 002||13||18||1|
|Mississippi State||003 000 100||4||12||0|
E - Mooney(10). DP - S. Carolina 1. LOB - S. Carolina 10; MSTATE 13. 2B - Walker(12); Williams(4); Anderson 2(2); R. Collins 2(5). 3B - Wingo(1); Thomas(2). HR - Walker(8). HBP - Wingo; Parks; Thigpen; Ogden. SH - Mooney 2(7); Thigpen(6). SF - Wingo(1); Walker(2). SB - Mooney(2).
|John Taylor W,3-1||4.0||4||1||1||1||3||0||1||2||0||16||19||5||4||77|
|Devin Jones L,2-5||0.2||3||4||4||1||0||0||0||0||0||4||6||0||2||16|
Win - Taylor (3-1). Loss - D. Jones (2-5). Save - None. WP - Stark(2); Graveman(4). HBP - by Koumas (Parks); by Taylor (Ogden); by Taylor (Thigpen); by Graveman (Wingo). BK - Taylor(2). PB - Beary(2). Pitches/strikes: Koumas 51/33; Taylor 77/49; Price 43/27; Norris 26/20; Girodo 40/25; D. Jones 16/10; Diaz 17/11; Stark 14/7; Graveman 48/32.
Start: 1:30 pm Time: 3:03 Attendance: 5821
Diaz faced 2 batters in the 5th.