As a long day at the park extended into a second one, South Carolina baseball dug deep once more and found a way to extend its stay in Hoover, Alabama, rallying to defeat Mizzou, 4-2, in the first round of the SEC tournament.
The Gamecocks (33-22, 17-13 SEC) and Tigers (34-22, 12-18) had to wait a long time before they could face off in the final first-round matchup of the day — a rain delay and extra innings in an earlier game meant first pitch didn't take place until 10:31 p.m. local time.
Through the first few innings, it seemed as though neither team was too eager to stay later than it had to — there was no score through three innings, as USC freshman starter Carmen Mlodzinski in particular looked dangerous, striking out five batters and giving up no hits or walks on just 35 pitches.
In the fourth, however, he immediately ran into trouble, with back-to-back leadoff singles, then a wild pitch to put runners on second and third base. A groundout drove in one run, and another single scored a second.
South Carolina halved the lead in the bottom of the fifth, as junior shortstop LT Tolbert led things off with a double down the left field line, advanced to third on a single from senior catcher Hunter Taylor and scored on a double from junior center fielder Jacob Olson.
"I think we were a little too aggressive, so we just needed to stay in the middle, make an adjustment, and that's what we did," senior designated hitter Madison Stokes said on SEC Network of what the team adjusted to produce offensively.
USC loaded the bases with one out as freshman left fielder Noah Campbell lofted a soft bloop into shallow center that dropped between a crowd of fielders for a single. However, a strikeout and flyout ended that threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, though, the Gamecocks took the lead as Taylor ripped a sharp single back up the middle that ricocheted off the pitcher's leg. Olson walked, and Campbell singled through the right side to load the bases.
Sophomore right fielder Carlos Cortes then drew a five-pitch walk to drive in a run and tie the game, and Stokes lofted a fly ball to left field for the game-winning RBI. Senior third baseman Jonah Bride followed with a line drive single to left to score a fourth run.
All told, the game lasted past 1:30 a.m. as the Tigers fought to stave off elimination. In the end, junior Eddy Demurias picked up the win and junior Graham Lawson got the save with two scoreless innings.
The Gamecocks have now won 12 of their last 16 SEC games, including five of seven away from Founders Park.
Star of the game: LT Tolbert, who went 2-4 with a double and run, sparking the fifth inning outburst for USC and opening the scoring for the Gamecocks.
Play of the game: The bases-loaded walk to Carlos Cortes in the bottom of the seventh came as Mizzou senior pitcher Andy Toelken seemed to have no interest in giving the sophomore slugger a pitch to hit that would bust the game open. In doing so, he let Cortes tie the game without putting the ball in play.
Stat of the game: Three double plays for South Carolina's defense, which also erased a runner with a strong throw from Hunter Taylor behind the plate.
Who: South Carolina (33-22, 17-13 SEC) vs. Arkansas (37-17, 18-12 SEC)
When: 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 23
Where: Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Hoover, Alabama
Watch: SEC Network
Listen: 107.5 FM
2018 SEC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT SCORES, SCHEDULE
*All times eastern and all games televised on SEC Network unless otherwise noted
TUESDAY, MAY 22 (Single elimination)
Game 1: No. 11 Texas A&M 3, No. 6 Vanderbilt 1
Game 2: No. 7 Auburn 4, No. 10 Kentucky 3
Game 3: No. 8 LSU 8, No. 9 Mississippi State 5
Game 4: No. 5 South Carolina 4, No. 12 Missouri 2
WEDNESDAY, MAY 23 (Double elimination)
Game 5: No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 11 Texas A&M, 10:30 a.m.
Game 6: No. 2 Ole Miss vs. No. 7 Auburn, to follow
Game 7: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 8 LSU, 5:30 p.m.
Game 8: No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 5 South Carolina, to follow
THURSDAY, MAY 24 (Double elimination)
Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 10:30 a.m.
Game 10: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, to follow
Game 11: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 5:30 p.m.
Game 12: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, to follow
FRIDAY, MAY 25 (Double elimination)
Game 13: Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 loser, 4 p.m.
Game 14: Game 10 winner vs. Game 12 loser, to follow
SATURDAY, MAY 26 (Single elimination)
Game 15: Game 13 winner vs. Game 11 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 16: Game 14 winner vs. Game 12 winner, to follow
SUNDAY, MAY 27 (Championship)
Game 17: Game 15 winner vs. Game 16 winner, 3 p.m. (ESPN2)