Charleston Southern played a flawless game of baseball Tuesday night. South Carolina did not.
That resulted in a 4-1 victory for the Buccaneers at Carolina Stadium and snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Gamecocks dating to the 2003 season.
“That’s the only way we’re going to beat them. You almost have to be flawless,” said CSU coach Stuart Lake, who served as an assistant coach at USC from 1999-2002 under Ray Tanner. “It means a ton to me. This is like coming home to where I started. They give us an opportunity to come in and play in this facility, and it’s a big win for our program, no question.”
No. 11 South Carolina (28-8) has lost three games in a row after dropping the final two games of the Florida series over the weekend. CSU (19-20) outhit the Gamecocks 12-6 and didn’t allow them to score until Jordan Gore’s two-out RBI single in the ninth inning.
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“They were clearly the better team tonight,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “They out-competed, out-hustled, out-scrapped and out-did us in just about everything.”
The Buccaneers jumped to a 3-0 lead after three innings off USC right-hander Evan Beal (0-1), who struggled in his second consecutive start, and never looked back. Bobby Ison, who had three hits, ignited the rallies in the first and third innings, and Alex Tomasovich, who had two hits, drove him in in both frames.
CSU right-hander Denis Buckley came out of the bullpen to stifle the USC lineup for 6 2/3 innings – allowing one run while striking out six – using an effective fastball and slider. First baseman Chase Shelton, who played at Brookland-Cayce High, collected a pair of hits and a fifth-inning RBI. He was thrilled his team won for the 12th time in 82 meetings against the Gamecocks and the first time in his career.
“I’m from here, and we’ve been trying to do this for three years,” Shelton said. “We work hard every day, and it feels great to come here and pull out a win. They’re a great team, but we all played hard and it came down to the last pitch. We’re really proud.”
The Gamecocks, who were 20-0 in nonconference game this season before the loss, were left to scratch their heads over their recent struggles. They’ve won three of their past eight games.
“We didn’t play very well at all, but baseball is a 56-game season, and we’ve got another one tomorrow. We can’t dwell on tonight,” USC catcher Grayson Greiner said. “Sitting here and feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t the way to go about it. We’re backed into a corner right now. We’ve got to come out fighting. We’ve got to work harder during the week and start to figure some things out.”
Holbrook wasn’t happy to see carryover from the Florida series, even though USC played without four starters against CSU because of various ailments – third baseman Joey Pankake (hamstring), second baseman Max Schrock (illness), shortstop Marcus Mooney (concussion) and right fielder Connor Bright (elbow).
Holbrook doesn’t expect any of them to play against The Citadel on Wednesday night at Charleston’s Riley Park.
“You’ve got to fight, scratch and claw regardless of who we’ve got in there to turn it around. I thought for sure we would come today ready to compete. But we got behind, and there wasn’t much fight in our dugout tonight. That was very disappointing,” Holbrook said.
“We’ll go down there (to Charleston) with the same team. If we have the same attitude, it’ll be the same result. I’m glad we’ve got a game tomorrow so we’ll have another opportunity.”
Greiner refused to use the absent starters as an excuse. He gave a nod to the solid play of the Bucs.
“It doesn’t really matter who we put out there. We’ve got to find a way to win,” Greiner said. “Obviously, we’re down some of our big guys in the lineup, but like I said, it’s nine versus nine, and their nine beat our nine tonight.”
Holbrook knew his team would likely lose a nonconference game at some point. He just wants to see his players rebound strongly in the 20 regular-season games remaining and play better than they did against CSU.
“We have a lot of games and a lot of opportunity in front of us. I’m not going to sit here and say this is a rut,” he said. “You’re going to lose two games sometimes in the SEC in a row. That just happens. We didn’t respond and had a bad performance tonight at home.”