South Carolina played strong defense for the majority of its 64-game season, but a couple of miscues in the fifth inning proved costly in USC’s 3-1 loss to Oklahoma State on Sunday.
With Jon Little on second and one out, J.R. Davis hit a groundball to shortstop Marcus Mooney. Little broke for third when the ball left the bat before racing back to second. Instead of taking the sure out at first, Mooney fired to second base looking to nab the lead runner, but his throw sailed into right field to give the Cowboys runners on the corners and one out instead of a runner on second and two outs.
OSU went on to score its only three runs of the game in the inning, and that was enough to earn a win and advance to the College World Series.
“He just made a mistake,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said of Mooney. “He tried to make a play, and believe me he wishes he had it back. But it didn’t work out. We try to play conservative defense here. That’s what we kind of preach. That one, that wasn’t conservative. If we’d have thrown the ball across to first who knows.”
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Corey Hassel followed with a squeeze bunt that first baseman Madison Stokes was unable to handle to give put OSU on the board and give the Cowboys runners on first and second with one down before Donnie Walton plated another run with an RBI single.
Walton then attempted to steal second base and John Jones made a bad throw that landed in centerfield to allow Hassel to score.
“You can’t have a bad inning in a super regional. You just can’t, or you don’t advance,” Holbrook said. “We had a bad inning against the wrong team at the wrong time. We’ve been very, very good defensively all year long.”
FANS WERE SUPERB
There were 7,677 fans at Founders Park on Sunday, and despite the temperature being about 100 degrees, they made their presence known until the final out.
USC fans were loud throughout the game and did their best to help the Gamecocks, but South Carolina never got the big hit it needed, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“They were awesome. I know our players appreciate it. I certainly appreciate it. They tried to will us to win, and they did a darn good job of it last weekend. We just couldn’t get that big play,” Holbrook said. “It was ready to explode a couple of times, and we just couldn’t quite finish it off with a big play, or a big swing of the bat.”
SCHMIDT BOUNCED BACK
Clarke Schmidt struggled in his previous three starts, failing to make it out of the fifth inning while allowing 13 earned runs, but he pitched six strong innings Sunday to keep USC in the game.
The only runs surrendered came in the fifth inning when his defense let him down as he struck out six and allowed six hits while throwing 103 pitches.
“I’m proud of Clarke for the way he pitched. He was terrific after he had struggled a little bit as of late. He gave us a chance to win,” Holbrook said. “That was a really, really neat start for him. He’s a special kid. I know he’ll go back to work and commit himself to having an even better year next year.”