Matt Connolly

Despite loss Sunday, USC likes its chances with a late lead

South Carolina reliever Tyler Johnson allowed a solo home run in the seventh inning on Sunday.
South Carolina reliever Tyler Johnson allowed a solo home run in the seventh inning on Sunday. dmclemore@thestate.com

South Carolina was unable to finish off Georgia after holding a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday, but the Gamecocks will happily take their chances in that situation again.

The backend of USC’s bullpen has been lights out all year. Setup man Tyler Johnson had kept teams from scoring in eight of his previous 10 outings, and Josh Reagan entered the weekend with a 0.31 ERA.

But Johnson allowed a solo homer to tie the game in the seventh inning, and Reagan allowed two solo shots in the eighth as USC dropped the series to the Bulldogs.

Still, you have to think the ending of Sunday’s game was more of an outlier than the start of a trend with the way Carolina has pitched late in games.

USC is 25-0 when leading after five innings on the year.

“They’ve been put in that scenario all year and gotten out of it,” Carolina’s leading hitter Alex Destino said. “They just couldn’t today, but looking down the road those are the two guys we’re going to be looking forward to. And we’re going to be just as confident when they come in next time.”

South Carolina struggled with runners on base all weekend and went 4-for-20 Sunday , but USC coach Chad Holbrook still felt good about his team’s chances to win when Johnson took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“Even though the score wasn’t indicative, we couldn’t get any separation, we felt like we were in a good position to win the game,” he said.

Reagan, who suffered his first loss of the year, believes USC will bounce back.

“I left balls over the plate and they hit them… They weren’t bad pitches, but they put good swings on them, he said. “We just didn’t do our job today. It sucks to lose, but we’ll get the next couple.”

Coach is confident USC will bounce back: 'I believe in my team.'

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