Oklahoma State’s pitching did a brilliant job of keeping South Carolina off the scoreboard.
They were almost as good as South Carolina was at keeping South Carolina off the scoreboard.
Self-inflicted wounds had the Gamecocks kicking themselves after Saturday’s 5-1 loss, especially after Dom Thompson-Williams led off the ninth with a solo home run. If not for one bad pitch in the top of the frame, USC would’ve had the tying run at the plate with no outs in the ninth; but if playing the “if not” game, go back to the fourth inning.
Having seen ace Thomas Hatch one time through the order, USC led off the fourth with two singles, the second where OSU’s third baseman fell down and couldn’t get to the ball.
But Thompson-Williams popped his third pitch foul, after bunting his first one foul, and Alex Destino struck out. Jonah Bride smacked a single to short that was knocked down, but not caught.
At worst, USC should have had bases loaded with two outs for Madison Stokes, yet Gene Cone was tearing around third and trying to score. The Cowboys didn’t have any problem completing the play at the plate, and USC never threatened again.
“I think coach (Sammy) Esposito just thought the ball was a little bit further in the outfield than it was,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said, reflecting on his own difficult decisions as third-base coach. “You have to make a decision like that on the spur of the moment. You hate to make the third out at home, but yet at the same point in time, you feel like you got a chance at that moment to score him, you certainly hate to hold him up. It’s not easy from time to time on plays like that.”
The Gamecocks went to Taylor Widener to pitch in the ninth. He was facing nine-hole hitter Collin Theroux, batting .161 with 89 strikeouts, including two on Saturday.
Widener tried to peck corners and get calls, worked a full count, then watched his payoff pitch get smacked into the left-field seats.
Suddenly down 5-0, USC could have gone quietly. But Thompson-Williams homered, and USC had a short-lived rally that would have been much more exciting in a 2-1 game than 5-1.
Holbrook immediately preached last week to his team. He had to, knowing that Oklahoma State was better on Saturday, but USC was just as responsible for the loss.
“They know. They understand,” Holbrook said. “I don’t want to sit here and bellyache over a couple of mistakes that we made. We have a game to play tomorrow, and hopefully they’ll be in the right frame of mind to play their best game.”
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