Last week was a washout for the South Carolina baseball team in more ways than one.
The Gamecocks went winless in a week for the first time all season, dropping a pair of games to No. 2 Vanderbilt, and the teams weren’t able to play the third one due to rainy weather. As a result, they dropped to 33-14 overall and 13-10 in the SEC. There was one glimmer of sunshine, however: USC stayed at No. 15 in the Baseball America Top 25.
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The senior right-hander had struggled mightily the past month, but Friday night he resembled the pitcher who has won 20 games in his USC career. Holmes threw three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and no walks, to lower his ERA to 4.27 on the season. The Gamecocks will need him to build on this effective outing down the stretch.
Both designated hitter Kyle Martin and outfielder Sean Sullivan came off the bench to deliver big hits in a weekend when there weren’t many of them. Martin drilled a pinch-hit solo home run, his first homer of the season, in the ninth inning of Friday night’s loss. And Sullivan, who was filling in for the injured Connor Bright in right-field Saturday, laced an RBI single with two outs in a two-run seventh inning.
The sophomore left-hander had his worst outing of the season Saturday, when he allowed four runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings while taking his first loss. He had pitched very well despite an arm injury that caused him to miss a month, but he never found a rhythm against the Commodores.
Facing four of the top pitchers in the SEC over the two games, the Gamecocks never got untracked. They scored only four runs on 12 hits while working just four walks and striking out 13 times.
The USC bullpen allowed only one run in 9 1/3 innings over two games despite not using top relievers Adam Westmoreland and Tyler Webb. Holmes, Patrick Sullivan, Vince Fiori and Evan Beal gave up just 10 combined hits and two walks and struck out eight. They could provide a real lift in the final two weekends.
The Gamecocks don’t have a lot of margin for error in getting a first-round bye in the SEC tournament. They must finish in the top four to avoid the single-elimination play-in day for seeds five through 12 before the double-elimination portion begins. Right now they sit in fourth at 13-10, just ahead of Mississippi State (13-11), Ole Miss (12-12) and Florida (12-12). The last spot might come down to their series against Mississippi State in Starkville to end the regular season.
JUST THE FACTS
... South Carolina is hitting .282, fourth-best in the league. The Gamecocks lead the SEC with 41 home runs. They rank third in slugging percentage (.423) and fourth in on-base percentage (.374)
... USC pitchers have compiled a 3.07 ERA with 372 strikeouts to 112 walks in 419 innings. The ERA ranks just sixth in the conference with opponents are hitting .252 against the staff. South Carolina is fielding .972 as a team, eighth best in the SEC.
... Wednesday: Wofford, Carolina Stadium, 7 p.m. (FS Carolinas/FS South)
... Friday: Georgia, Carolina Stadium, 7 p.m. (SportSouth)
... Saturday: Georgia, Carolina Stadium, 1 p.m. (CSS)
... Sunday: Georgia, Carolina Stadium, 1:30 p.m. (SportSouth)