Down four runs in the sixth inning Thursday night at Carolina Stadium, South Carolina looked like it was well on the way to a defeat at the hands of the nation’s best team.
But then something happened. The Gamecocks discovered a little magic dust left over from the 2010 and 2011 championship seasons to score four runs in both the sixth and seventh innings to pull out an improbable 10-7 victory over No. 1 LSU.
Junior third baseman DC Arendas ignited the team and the raucous crowd with a two-out, two-run homer -- a deep blast over the bullpen in right-centerfield -- to tie the game at 6-6 in the sixth inning. The stunned Tigers couldn’t recover, as their pitchers issued five walks in the seventh inning to hand the Gamecocks another scoring outburst.
“I knew after LSU went up a couple of runs, we were going to have to claw our way back into it,” Arendas said. “They’re such a good offensive team, and we knew we’d have to put together some consecutive innings of scoring as well as playing good defense.”
USC also used that solid defense in those same innings to keep the Tigers from adding to their lead. The Gamecocks turned double plays to end both the sixth and the seventh, as LSU stranded a pair of runners in each inning.
Max Schrock, who led the 11-hit attack with three hits, including a solo home run in the first inning to get things started, said the rally fired everyone up from the dugout to the stands.
“A lot of guys put a lot of good swings on the ball. You’ve got to attribute a lot of that to our fans,” Schrock said. “That was one of the loudest (crowds) I’ve heard at Carolina Stadium since I’ve been here. That was awesome. We need that the rest of the weekend. We feed off that, too.”
The Gamecocks, who won for the fifth time in six games, improved to 32-22 overall and 13-15 in the SEC, while the Tigers dropped to 44-9 overall and 19-8 in the SEC. The teams play the second game of the series Friday at 8 p.m. It will be televised on ESPNU.
Last weekend USC knocked off then-No. 3 Texas A&M on the road by winning two-of-three.
“We feel like we can play with the best teams in the country,” Arendas said.
If the Gamecocks keep playing their best baseball against the teams at the top of the conference, an NCAA tournament bid remains in sight. The comeback victory showed the team isn’t ready to give up.
“Pretty much throughout the whole game we showed fight. When we got down a few runs, nobody was hanging their heads, and everybody was still competing,” Schrock said. “That’s what we’ve done the past couple of weekends, and that’s what we need to continue to do.”
With another big night at the plate, USC has scored 58 runs in the last five games. Arendas collected two hits and three RBIs, as did freshman catcher Hunter Taylor.
Junior left-hander Jack Wynkoop couldn’t get his fifth straight victory, as he got knocked out in the sixth inning with the Tigers leading 6-2. But sophomore right-hander Reed Scott (2-3) got the job done with three strong innings in relief to pick up the win after the Gamecocks staged their dramatic rally.
“I knew we were going to put some runs on the board,” Scott said. “My job was just to hold them where they were, whether it was just one inning or three innings.”
Holbrook loved how his team kept coming at the Tigers.
“They battled and competed hard every pitch, both on the mound and on defense. At the plate, guys stepped up,” Holbrook said. “...They made this coach happy tonight, not because we won but because of the way they competed against a great team. LSU is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. We were able to put two really good innings together in the sixth and the seventh and came away with a big win.”
The Tigers, who piled up 15 hits, lamented the missed opportunities. They left 10 runners on base.
“We’ve got to do a better job with people on base,” LSU shortstop Alex Bregman said. “I had an opportunity with bases loaded (in the seventh) and I should have driven in some runs. I think that was the game-changer. When the bases are loaded and I grounded into a double play by hitting a soft 99-hopper to second base, that changed the game and that gave them momentum. I take responsibility for that.”