'A very difficult loss': Chad Holbrook recaps Friday game
The 27th out continues to be a problem for South Carolina, as does offensive production.
For the third time this season the Gamecocks blew a save with two outs in the ninth inning, only to go on to lose the game, as Vanderbilt rallied for a 5-3 win over USC Friday night at Founders Park.
Carolina led 3-2 with two outs in the ninth inning when Reed Hayes hit a pinch-hit RBI single to left off Colie Bowers to tie the game.
Julian Infante then blasted a two-run homer into the Commodores’ bullpen off Reed Scott with one out in the 13th inning as No. 11 USC (20-10, 6-5) dropped its fourth SEC game in five tries.
“They’re hard to take when you’re so close to winning them. We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump and get that 27th out,” Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook said. “That being said our pitchers kept us in the game… We just didn’t do enough offensively from the third inning on.”
While South Carolina’s relievers allowed a couple of big hits, USC’s offense struggled to provide any help for the Gamecocks’ pitching staff, scoring three runs in the third inning and no runs in the final 10.
The Gamecocks finished with seven hits and stranded 10 runners on base. Jonah Bride and Madison Stokes each had a pair of hits, while Bride and Carlos Cortes had RBIs.
South Carolina did not advance a runner past second base after the third inning and did not advance a runner past first base after the seventh.
“We kind of forced our pitchers to be perfect and at the end of the day that got us,” Holbrook said. “Things aren’t really going our way right now. Ones that we do square up seem to get caught. When the game was on the line they found a way to tough one through the six-hole. You’ve got to give them credit.”
The loss spoiled a stellar outing by USC junior Clarke Schmidt, who struck out 11 batters and allowed two runs in seven innings of work.
Schmidt was nearly untouchable, allowing only a pair of runs in the fourth inning with one scoring on a bloop single and another on a wild pitch. He did not allow a runner to advance past first base after the fourth.
He struck out two batters in the first, fourth, sixth and seventh innings and exited after 109 pitches.
“My stuff felt good. I felt like I was going out there and competing every inning. The past few weekends my stuff’s felt really good,” Schmidt said. “It’s gut-wrenching for everyone, if you pitched today, you played today or not played. Even the fans. Anyone who supports this team it’s obviously a gut-wrenching loss.”
In South Carolina’s 10 losses this season, nine have come by one or two runs. The Gamecocks held a lead with two outs in the ninth inning in two of the past three losses.
Holbrook hopes his team can stay mentally strong and bounce back with a win in Game 3 against Vanderbilt (21-11, 6-5) on Saturday at noon.
“It wears on you, that’s for sure,” Holbrook said. “You have to have some toughness and competitiveness. Tomorrow is one of 30 games in the league. You have to treat it as a separate entity and come and play and lay it on the line. They don’t ask you how many series you won at the end of the year they ask you how many games you won.”