HOOVER, Ala. —Sam Dyson sat silent at the podium. This was supposed to be his moment, a chance to tell the story of an improbable performance.
Instead there was nothing to ask. The attention was elsewhere, on a pivotal issue that had afflicted the South Carolina baseball team too many times before.
“We played really well at the beginning of the game,” Dyson said in his opening and final comments at a news conference Wednesday. “We came up on the short end today.”
The beginning and the end again proved two different events for USC, which fell 5-4 to LSU in the first round of the SEC tournament. The Gamecocks led 4-0 going into the ninth inning, but two homers and “the baseball gods” — according to one player — flipped the result.
The loss sent seventh-seeded South Carolina (37-20) into the loser’s bracket, where it will face third-seeded Florida (34-21) today at 11 a.m. in an elimination game.
The Gamecocks could blame their bullpen, which wasted a sterling performance from Dyson. The redshirt freshman, making his first appearance against an SEC team, yielded only two hits over 6ð innings and 122 pitches.
The bullpen has been a problem all season for the Gamecocks: After Wednesday’s meltdown, USC relievers carry a 5.02 ERA. The number spikes to 6.43 in SEC play.
USC coach Ray Tanner was asked whether he was tired of his team losing late leads.
“You never want to give up leads late in the game and I hate to see that,” Tanner answered. “We pitched pretty good in this game but our bullpen came out and missed some pitches that really hurt us.”
The first blast — a one-out, three-run homer by LSU’s Matt Clark — came off Will Atwood, who had started all season until Wednesday. Before Clark finished his home run trot, Tanner was out of the dugout and calling for reliever Brandon Todd.
After a walk and a strikeout, LSU’s Ryan Schempf hit what looked to be a foul ball down the left-field line. But as USC left fielder Andrew Crisp charged in, the ball bounced inches fair, giving LSU’s tying run plenty of time to score.
“It started foul, and I guess the baseball gods pushed it back in,” Schempf. “I was just trying to stay alive.”
There was less doubt about the game-winning homer by LSU’s Blake Dean off USC’s Alex Farotto.
“It was probably one of the best (comebacks) I’ve witnessed as a coach,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
The Gamecocks felt differently.
“Not to take anything away from LSU, but I’m sure our guys are getting on the bus right now thinking we should’ve won that game,” Tanner said. “So that’s a lot better feeling than not feeling we had an opportunity to win. So we’ve had some games where we didn’t feel too good and were able to bounce back. So we’ll be ready to play (against Florida).”
USC --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- LSU
DP—USC 1; LSU 1. LOB—USC 10; LSU 6. 2B—Merrifield; Schimpf. 3B—LeMahieu. HR—Disher; Dean; Clark. HBP—Mitchell.. SH—Havens; Merrifield; An. Crisp; Wingo. SB—Schimpf. CS—An. Crisp.
|Farotto L, 0-1||1/3||1||1||1||0||1|
|Bradford W, 10-4||1||0||0||0||1||0|
HBP—by Dyson (Mitchell).
Umpires: HP—Dennis McComb. 1B—A.J. Lostaglio. 3B—Ken Couch.
T: 3:25. A: NT.