Mark Kingston details what went wrong in South Carolina baseball’s 24-7 loss to MSU
In desperate need of a strong showing over its next three games against No. 5 Mississippi State, South Carolina baseball got the opposite of that Thursday night, dropping its series opener 24-7.
The 17-run margin of defeat and 22 hits allowed are both season-worst marks for the Gamecocks (27-26, 7-21 SEC), exceeding a 22-11 loss to Vanderbilt two weeks ago. And it came after they led 2-0 after two and a half innings at Dudy-Noble Field — MSU scored 16 unanswered runs at one point.
“What I told them after the game was, as bad as this was and as ugly as it is, it still only counts as one against you,” coach Mark Kingston said. “They don’t get extra credit for how many runs they scored, so it’s one that didn’t go our way.”
The loss does not drop South Carolina out of a tie with Alabama and Kentucky for 12th place in the conference — Only one will exit their final series with a spot in Hoover and the SEC tournament. Alabama lost its series opener to Georgia, and Kentucky lost to Vanderbilt.
Early on in Starkville, redshirt freshman starter Cam Tringali was cruising against one of the nation’s best lineups, and sophomore left fielder Andrew Eyster was supplying the offense, cracking a pair of RBI doubles in the first and third innings, both of which plated senior center fielder TJ Hopkins.
In the bottom of the third, though, the Bulldog offense woke up, and got some help from Carolina in the process. A throwing error on second baseman Noah Campbell and an infield single set up a gritty at-bat by MSU star Jake Mangum, who battled off multiple 0-2 offerings before getting hit by a pitch.
“I think the count was still 0-2 10 pitches later. There were some pitches out of the hand that you know he’s not gonna touch it, and he did. But that’s the reason he’s probably the best hitter in NCAA history,” Tringali said of Mangum, who holds the SEC all-time hits record.
Tringali then walked two batters to tie the game. The go-ahead run scored on a double play, and another walk and Campbell error plated another.
“I was feeling good, still felt good going into that inning. Just got a little excited trying to work out of a big situation. Just kinda got a little too big for myself and lost control a little bit in big spots,” Tringali said
Sophomore right fielder Josh Hatcher led off the fourth with a solo home run, starting another scoring burst that tacked on four more runs off four singles, a wild pitch and a double to put the Bulldogs up 9-2.
Tringali was pulled to start the bottom of the fifth in favor of freshman Daniel Lloyd, but the onslaught continued — Lloyd gave up a pair of singles and threw a wild pitch, and a fielder’s choice allowed another run to score.
After Lloyd hit a batter to load the bases, he was lifted for junior Cole Ganopulos, who gave up a two-RBI single and then a grand slam to junior catcher Dustin Skelton.
“Once they started getting to Cam, we brought Lloyd in, and he just didn’t have it. And they just started scoring off Cole — Cole’s just gonna have to wear it the rest of the night just to get out of it,” Kingston said.
The Gamecocks got a run back in the sixth off an RBI groundout, but Mississippi State came right back with a solo home run, error, double and sacrifice fly to score two more.
Two singles and a hit batter scored another run in the seventh for MSU, and the Bulldogs added five more in the eighth off two doubles, a single and a three-run home run.
As both teams emptied their benches late in the game, the Gamecocks scored four runs in the ninth to cut the deficit below 20 and ensure the team avoided its worst loss since 1997 — in 2017, Kentucky defeated Carolina 19-1.
“The same thing happened to us with Vanderbilt (two weeks ago), and I think we didn’t end up winning any games, but I thought we bounced back fairly well from that. So I don’t think it means a whole lot,” Eyster said.
Next: South Carolina faces Mississippi State in the penultimate game of the regular season on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.