South Carolina baseball had the chance to take its first SEC series of the season.
But it slipped away.
The No. 24 Gamecocks dropped a 6-3 contest and the series at No. 22 Tennessee on Sunday to fall to 1-5 in SEC play. USC (16-8) appeared to have a chance at a second one-run victory in Knoxville, but things came apart in the eighth.
USC had led 3-2 after a two-run Chris Cullen double in the seventh, putting the score at the same spot as Saturday night. But the Volunteers (20-5) loaded the bases with no outs and plated four runs, highlighted by Jake Rucker’s two-run single.
South Carolina was down from the start as Evan Russell singled home a run in the first for the Vols. Starting pitcher T.J. Shook lasted only 3 2/3 innings, leaving in the fourth after a pair of wild pitches scored a run and followed by walking a batter.
The Gamecocks managed to get one back in the fifth inning after Noah Campbell hit a one-out double and Brady Allen singled him home.
USC at least got runners on, stranding 11 throughout the day, but couldn’t convert time and again. Senior pitcher Will Neely delivered a solid start for Tennessee, allowing only the single run in 5 1/3 innings, and Garrett Crochet (2-1) picked up the win in relief.
South Carolina’s last four pitchers in the game combined to allow four runs and got five total outs. Gage Hinson was charged with the loss, his first decision of the season.
Cullen had a pair of hits, both doubles. He and Campbell were the only Gamecocks with more than one.
The Gamecocks also started last season 1-5 in the SEC, and a homestand against the Vols helped turn things around. That sweep helped spark a run that saw USC win 17 conference games and make the NCAA tournament.
Up next: South Carolina will host North Carolina A&T on Tuesday at 7 p.m. before a weekend series against Auburn in Founders Park.
Ole Miss scored two runs in the top of the eight inning Sunday night to defeat South Carolina 2-0 in extra innings. The series is tied and concludes at 7 p.m. Monday at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field. The game will be televised on SEC Network.