Mark Kingston: ‘The defense was the difference’ in South Carolina’s loss to Georgia
After a quiet series opener, South Carolina baseball got some production from its bats against Georgia on Saturday.
But the Gamecocks’ top starting pitcher struggled for the first time this year, and the defense tied a season high with three errors as USC fell 8-7 to the Bulldogs at Founders Park.
“The defense was the difference,” coach Mark Kingston said. “They played great defense and we didn’t. We gave up three (unearned) runs and that was the difference in the ballgame.”
In a back-and-forth contest, Carolina (14-5, 0-2 SEC) took the lead three different times against UGA, only to surrender them all the next half-inning and ultimately lose its first series of the season.
“We just gottabounce back from some of the mistakes we had today and refine our approaches at the plate,” sophomore catcher Luke Berryhill said. “More mental stuff than anything, just handling balls, and we just gotta be mentally tough.”
The Gamecocks’ first four runs of the day came off home runs in the second and third innings from Berryhill, freshman DH Ian Jenkins and sophomore right fielder Andrew Eyster. The latter two were part of a four-run third that was capped by an RBI bloop double from senior third baseman Jacob Olson that scored Berryhill and gave USC a 5-1 advantage.
Carolina junior starter Reid Morgan, however, encountered trouble and for the first time this year, couldn’t work his way out of it — he allowed three singles and a run to score in the third inning, then gave up four more runs in the fourth off four singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly. He finished with four innings pitched, eight hits, four earned runs and two walks, all season worsts.
“They hit everything that was placed,” Morgan said. “Anything I threw outside, they took the other way. They have a good eye. They see pitches down, and they see pitches up, and when they see pitches up, they rip it and get a hit. ... I’ve gotta command my pitches a lot better than I did today.
Reid received little help from Carolina’s defense in the fourth though — no one covered first base on a sacrifice bunt, allowing the batter to reach, and a fielder’s choice wound up loading the bases on a fielding error at second base.
“Those were routine balls that need to be made at this level,” Kingston said. “I just saw errors made. There’s no excuse ... I didn’t see bad feet, I just saw routine plays that should have been made.”
USC retook the lead a final time in the bottom of the inning on a line drive RBI single from junior shortstop George Callil, but Georgia once again came right back in the top of the fifth, tying things off another USC error and an RBI double against freshman reliever Daniel Lloyd.
Lloyd was replaced by senior reliever Gage Hinson, who gave up an RBI groundout in the fifth and three singles in the sixth to give Georgia an 8-6 lead.
Olson gave the Gamecocks a little life late, getting hit by a pitch in the eighth inning, advancing from first to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a sacrifice fly. But USC went down in order in the ninth and had just one hit in the final five innings.
Next: South Carolina and Georgia finish their series at Founders Park on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Sophomore TJ Shook or freshman Brett Kerry will start for the Gamecocks.
Softball: The Gamecocks lost to Arkansas, 7-4, dropping a four-run lead to fall to 0-5 in SEC play this season, 20-7 overall.