Chad Holbrook sort of saw this one coming, even if it did involve a rare blown save by his closer.
No. 14 South Carolina couldn’t hold a late three-run lead, as No. 24 Mississippi State scored four times in the eighth inning to claim a 5-4 win at Dudy Noble Field in Thursday’s series opener.
Tyler Webb (2-2), who has 15 saves on the season, was tagged for three runs on four hits. He entered after Wes Rea’s solo home run to lead off the eighth cut the Gamecocks’ lead to 4-2.
Back-to-back RBI singles by Nick Ammirati and Adam Frazier tied the game, and after slugger Hunter Renfroe was intentionally walked, Webb issued a bases-loaded walk to Brett Pirtle to give MSU (39-15, 15-13 SEC) the go-ahead run.
“If we lose the game with (Webb), I can sleep at night,” said Holbrook, South Carolina’s first-year coach. “He’s been our best guy all year, and give them credit. Their bats were more competitive than ours were, through the whole game.”
MSU banged out 14 hits, while South Carolina (38-15, 16-11) had seven. The Gamecocks kept Renfroe — the SEC’s home run leader — in check, getting him out with multiple runners on base three times, including a bases-loaded strikeout in the seventh.
But Ammirati, C.T. Bradford and Demarcus Henderson — all of whom bat on the low end of the order — had three hits apiece.
“We were up 4-2, 4-1, and we were still thinking, man, they’re playing awfully good,” Holbrook said. “They were hitting some balls at us, we caught some line drives. We were lucky to be ahead at that point in time.”
This was MSU’s second consecutive comeback SEC win, having erased a six-run deficit against Ole Miss on Sunday. Thursday’s rally came against a South Carolina team that coming into the weekend was 32-2 when leading after six innings.
“Nobody’s panicking in the dugout, nobody’s going crazy, because we know what we’re capable of, so we just keep fighting and battling back,” said Henderson, who had a bunt single in the eighth.
South Carolina struck early with Joey Pankake’s two-run double to the center field wall in the first inning. MSU starter Luis Pollorena settled in for a while after that, retiring 12 consecutive batters.
Then he gave up doubles to Brison Celek and Tanner English in the fifth to make it a 3-1 Gamecock lead. Pollorena got the hook after Graham Saiko’s RBI single made it 4-1.
In 42/3 innings, Pollorena was charged with four runs on five hits with no strikeouts and a walk.
USC starter Nolan Belcher tossed 61/3 innings of one-run ball.
LB Dantzler, who missed the two previous games with a separated shoulder, started at first base and went 0 for 4.
Game 2 is today at 7:30 p.m.
|Saiko lf||3||1||1||1||Frazier ss||4||0||1||1|
|Vrgson 3b||4||1||1||0||Detz 3b||3||0||1||0|
|Pankake ss||4||0||1||2||Renfroe rf||4||0||1||0|
|Dntzler 1b||4||0||0||0||Pirtie 2b||4||0||1||2|
|Schrock 2b||3||0||0||0||Rea 1b||5||1||1||1|
|Greiner c||3||0||0||0||Brdford cf||3||1||3||0|
|Celek dh||3||1||2||0||Armstrng dh||4||0||0||0|
|Costen pr||0||0||0||0||Hndrson lf||4||1||3||0|
|Martin ph||1||0||0||0||Ammrti c||4||2||3||1|
|Totals 32||4||7||4||Totals 35||5||14||5|
Westmorelan faced 1 batter in the 8th.
Girodo faced 1 batter in the 9th.