Matt Connolly

Walk-off win could provide a mental boost for USC moving forward

Chad Holbrook could sense it in the dugout, and everyone else in Founders Park could feel it as well.

South Carolina was pressing.

The Gamecocks led 4-0 entering the seventh inning but could have led by much more.

USC left the bases loaded in the first inning and two runners in scoring position in the sixth.

Then with a two-run lead in the seventh, the Gamecocks got the first two runners on base but were unable to score.

South Carolina had gone through the same problem the previous night against Alabama, leaving nine runners on base in a 4-2 loss.

“We were pressing,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “There was a little pressure on our guys. They were trying too hard. Sometimes, in this game, that can work against you.”

But thanks to some good fortune, and some timely hits, South Carolina turned it around.

After Alabama rallied to take a 5-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, a walk and three wild pitches allowed Carolina to tie the game.

Then in the 10th, a Hunter Taylor walk, LT Tolbert single, TJ Hopkins walk and Justin Row walk-off single allowed the Gamecocks to leave the park in a positive mood after being down in the dumps minutes earlier.

The walk-off victory was the first for South Carolina since 2015.

“It’s a big relief. Hopefully let the air out of the balloon so to speak, take a deep breath,” Holbrook said.

Instead of falling to 3-2 in conference play, the seventh-ranked Gamecocks are 4-1.

Saturday’s win could be huge in the SEC standings as the year goes along, and huge as far as confidence.

South Carolina proved Saturday it can be on the ropes without any momentum and respond by gutting out a win.

“We willed our way to this one and maybe snatched victory from the jaws of defeat,” Holbrook said. “You look back on those at the end of the year and cherish them because they’re awfully important, because this league’s so difficult.”

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