South Carolina had nine hits against Oklahoma State on Sunday, but the Gamecocks didn’t get any when it mattered the most.
USC went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in a 3-1 loss to the Cowboys that ends South Carolina’s season at 46-18. Oklahoma State swept USC in the best-of-three Super Regional to advance to its first College World since 1999.
The only two runs scored by the Gamecocks over the weekend came on a solo home run and wild pitch.
“It’s just difficult to score on those guys, and they made some quality pitches when runners were out there. They made the pitches they had to make when they needed to make them,” Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook said. “We had nine hits, they had eight. But they got them when they counted and we couldn’t get that big one when we needed it most.”
South Carolina scored 43 runs in its final three games of the Columbia Regional before doing next to nothing offensively against OSU.
On Sunday, it was righty Tyler Buffett who scattered eight hits over seven innings. He only struck out four batters, but the Oklahoma State defense played flawlessly behind him.
“He did a really good job of keeping the ball down, and they played great defense behind him,” USC senior DC Arendas said. “In a Super Regional game, it’s going to be difficult to score. We just couldn’t get the big hits in the few opportunities that we had to get them.”
While Oklahoma State played strong defense, the Gamecocks were hurt by a couple of errors in the fifth inning that helped the Cowboys take a 3-0 lead.
With Jon Little on second and one out, J.R. Davis hit a groundball to USC shortstop Marcus Mooney, but the sure-handed defender tried to get the lead runner out at second as he raced back to the base instead of getting the out at first.
Mooney threw the ball away to put runners on the corners, and OSU executed a squeeze on the next play to take a 1-0 lead.
Donnie Walton followed with an RBI single, and catcher John Jones threw a ball into center field trying to catch a base stealer to push the Cowboys lead to 3-0.
“I hate we had the fifth inning that we did. That was just something that’s a little bit out of character for us,” Holbrook said. “If we make that play there who knows, maybe we win 1-0, but that’s baseball.”
Clarke Schmidt allowed just the three runs while pitching six strong innings to give USC a chance. Tyler Johnson gave up two hits and struck out four in two scoreless innings of relief.
South Carolina had several chances to put runs on the board even after falling behind 3-0, but came up empty time and time again.
The Gamecocks had two on and one out in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings and two on and two outs in the ninth but didn’t score on any of those occasions.
USC’s best chance to put together a big inning was in the eighth when Gene Cone walked and TJ Hopkins followed with a single, but Dom Thompson-Williams flied out, Alex Destino grounded out and John Jones flied out. Cone scored on a wild pitch with one out, but the Gamecocks got nothing else.
“The last three innings we had runners in scoring position,” Arendas said. “We got our opportunities, but we just didn’t make the most of them.”
USC tried to put together a two-out rally in the ninth as Arendas walked and Mooney followed with a single, but Cone lined out to second to end the game and South Carolina’s season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my team. I take some responsibility for not being able to win two more games,” Holbrook said. “All of our players invested a lot. It’s difficult right now.”
Star of the game: Buffett: The Cowboys’ starter worked out of trouble all afternoon, pitching to contact to keep USC’s offense at bay.
Play of the game: Mooney is one of the best defensive shortstops in the country, but his throwing error gave OSU runners on the corners and one out instead of a runner on second and two outs.
Stat of the game: 0-for-9: The Gamecocks went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Schmidt battled: The sophomore still didn’t have the same velocity he did earlier in the year, but after failing to make it out of the fifth inning in three straight starts, he kept USC in the game with six strong innings.
Holbrook loves this team: South Carolina’s coach got choked up in the postgame press conference when talking about what this team has meant to him.
Props to the USC fans: The temperature was right around 100 degrees during the game, but nearly 8,000 fans showed up at Founders Park, and most of them stayed until the last pitch.
Super Regional History
This was South Carolina’s 12th NCAA Super Regional appearance in the 16 years of the NCAA Regional-Super Regional format.
2000, at Columbia: USC lost series 2-1 to Louisiana-Lafayette
2001, at Palo Alto, Calif: USC lost series 2-1 to Stanford
2002, at Columbia: USC won series 2-1 vs. Miami
2003, at Columbia: USC won series 2-0 vs. North Carolina
2004, at Columbia: USC won series 2-0 vs. East Carolina
2006, at Athens, Ga.: USC lost series 2-1 to Georgia
2007, at Chapel Hill, NC: USC lost series 2-1 to North Carolina
2010, at Myrtle Beach: USC won series 2-0 vs. Coastal Carolina (USC won CWS)
2011, at Columbia: USC won series 2-0 vs. Connecticut (USC won CWS)
2012, at Columbia: USC won series 2-0 vs. Oklahoma
2013, at Chapel Hill, NC: USC lost series 2-1 to North Carolina
2016, at Columbia: USC lost series 2-0 to Oklahoma State