Matt Connolly

South Carolina struggles to do the little things necessary to win

Situational hitting has been a struggle for coach Chad Holbrook’s South Carolina Gamecocks this season.
Situational hitting has been a struggle for coach Chad Holbrook’s South Carolina Gamecocks this season. online@thestate.com

South Carolina has had some tough luck this year no doubt, but the stats show that it isn’t just bad luck or a pitch here or there that is costing the Gamecocks.

With three games remaining, USC is 10th in the SEC with a 12-15 record, and despite being close to winning some big series this season, that’s about where the Gamecocks belong.

South Carolina hasn’t consistently done the little things necessary to win close games. Things such as getting down a sacrifice bunt, scoring from third with less than two outs or putting together a two-out rally.

USC ranks near the bottom of the league in all of those categories because situational hitting has been a problem throughout the season.

Carolina is ninth in the league in hitting with runners in scoring position with an average of .263.

With a runner at third and less than two outs, the Gamecocks have converted 56.7 percent of the time, good for 10th in the SEC. The only teams worse than USC at converting in that situation are Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State and Missouri. Alabama, Georgia and Missouri have three of the four worst records in the league.

Carolina is last in the league when it comes to two-out hitting with an average of .218. No one else in the conference is lower than .240.

And the Gamecocks advance runners only 45.5 percent of the time, good for 11th in the SEC.

Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss, three teams in the bottom half of the league, are the only teams worse when it comes to advancing runners.

South Carolina has been committed to playing small ball all season, but the numbers indicate the Gamecocks are not good at it.

USC is tied for fourth in the SEC in sacrifice bunts with 28 but has struggled to get bunts down in key situations all year, including this past week.

Against Liberty, the Gamecocks tried to bunt twice in the final innings with Danny Blair popping up and Madison Stokes failing to get the bunt down and before getting two strikes.

After the game against the Flames, USC coach Chad Holbrook said he wasn’t ready to give up on bunting. He stayed true to his word in the series against Missouri, and his team continued to struggle to execute.

Leading hitter LT Tolbert was asked to sac bunt in the third inning with two on and bunted two attempts foul.

Later in the game, Jonah Bride popped up a bunt attempt resulting in an out.

Of course all of the blame doesn’t go to USC’s hitters. South Carolina has blown seven leads this season when entering the eighth inning, including Sunday against Missouri.

The Gamecocks lost only six times in the previous three years combined when leading entering the eighth inning, including a 43-1 mark in 2016.

Add it all together, along with injuries to ace Clarke Schmidt, catcher Chris Cullen and outfielder TJ Hopkins, and you have a team that has gone from everyone’s preseason top five to on the cusp of missing the postseason tournament for the second time in three years.

SEC Standings

East

CONF

CONF %

OVERALL

HOME

ROAD

Florida

19-8

.704

38-14

24-7

13-7

Kentucky

18-9

.667

36-16

25-5

10-10

Vanderbilt

13-13

.500

30-21

18-11

11-10

South Carolina

12-15

.444

30-21

21-11

9-8

Missouri

11-16

.407

31-21

17-13

9-6

Georgia

9-18

.333

22-30

13-19

8-11

Tennessee

7-18

.280

26-22

14-10

9-12

West

CONF

CONF %

OVERALL

HOME

ROAD

LSU

18-9

.667

35-17

26-7

7-8

Mississippi State

17-10

.630

33-19

22-8

10-10

Arkansas

16-10

.615

37-14

26-6

8-6

Texas A&M

15-12

.556

35-17

23-8

11-7

Auburn

14-13

.519

32-21

21-12

10-8

Ole Miss

13-14

.481

31-21

24-8

5-9

Alabama

5-22

.185

19-32

14-22

5-9

  Comments