COLUMBIA, SC (WIS & THE BIG SPUR) - By John Whittle, TheBigSpur.com
South Carolina missed out on multiple opportunities late as Ole Miss was able to salvage a 6-5 win in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon at Founders Park. South Carolina left the go-ahead run on third base in the eighth inning and the tying run in the same spot in the 10th as the Rebels (36-13, 13-11) were able to salvage one game in the series.
The Gamecocks (28-19, 13-11) allowed a single run in the seventh, eighth and tenth innings to fall while offensively, they left six runners on base during that same stretch.
"They did just enough to keep us off balance," first-year head coach Mark Kingston said of the Rebels' pitching staff. "You get 13 hits against arms like that, that shows the progress we made. We just didn't get one more big hit. We left 13 guys on base today, and that was clearly the difference."
The Rebels scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Chase Cockrell, who was 3-for-4 with two home runs in the game driving in three of the team's six runs. Reliever Sawyer Bridges suffered the loss to fall to 2-1 on the season after allowing two hits to begin the inning.
"Disappointed we didn't win the game," Kingston said. "That was a really good team in the other dugout. I just told my team that when a top-five team comes into your park and is happy to win one game, it means we must be getting pretty good."
The loss drops South Carolina to 24-2 this season when leading after the sixth inning.
Ole Miss opened the scoring with a pair of solo home runs in the second inning off of South Carolina starting pitcher Cody Morris. Thomas Dillard hit his team-leading 11th of the year while Chase Cockrell knocked his sixth, which went off the batters eye in straightaway center field.
Morris didn't have his best day allowing only the two earned runs but in just 3 1/3 innings pitched. He gave up six hits and walked two while striking out five in his 69-pitch performance. He was removed in favor of Eddy Demurias, who inherited a two on, one out situation but immediately got a double play ball to end the threat.
"Cody needs to get ahead of hitters," Kingston said. "For a guy with his stuff, it needs to be much better. He needs to give us more than the three innings that he did today, but we'll have his back, keep working with him and at some point, we need the light to go on for him and to be a dominant guy."
South Carolina tied the score in the bottom of the third inning on a two-out RBI single to right field by senior Madison Stokes, who is third on the team in that category with 32 runs driven in on the year after the knock.
The teams traded runs in the fifth as Demurias gave up a solo home run to Nick Fortes while Ole Miss reliever Will Ethridge walked in a run. Junior LT Tolbert worked the walk and was credited with an RBI. Each base runner in the inning came with two outs.
The Gamecocks had their two solo shot inning in the sixth when senior Hunter Taylor and sophomore Carlos Cortes both left the yard off of Ethridge. Taylor tucked his seventh of the year into the corner of the Ole Miss bullpen while Cortes hit his almost to Williams Street in right-center for his team-leading 11th.
That wouldn't be the end of it though as the Rebels fought back and tied the game in the eighth inning. Cole Zabowski lined a sacrifice fly to right field in the seventh and Cockrell hit his second home run of the day in the eighth, another solo shot, with this one also coming off of Demurias.
"Eddy is our go-to guy out of the bullpen right now," Kingston said. "He did a good job. The home run to tie the game was a two-strike pitch he left way up in the zone. I'm sure he wishes he could have it back. He goes out and pitches his butt off for you."
The Gamecocks had a runner on third with no one out in the eighth but left Jacob Olson stranded there after relief pitcher Parker Caracci navigated his way through the top of the order with a line out to second base, pop up to shortstop and strikeout to get out of trouble.
"We thought for sure we'd get the run in at that point," Kingston said. "It just wasn't meant to be. The guys gave it everything they had. Sometimes you have to credit the other pitcher, and he got out of it."
After giving up the run in the top half of the inning, the Gamecocks had one more chance in the bottom of the 10th. Stokes found himself back at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Just like in the eighth, Caracci struck him out to end the game. Stokes was 2-for-6 on the day with a run scored, two RBIs but three strikeouts and five left on base.
"(Stokes) will pick himself up but as coaches, we'll make sure he knows we have his back and his teammates have his back. That's a big part of our team right now as we all have each others' back. No one is more disappointed than him right now."
Caracci picked up the win to move his record to 3-2 on the season. He threw four shutout innings allowing only four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts. Olson and Taylor were the leading hitters for the Gamecocks each going 3-for-5 on the afternoon.
South Carolina and College of Charleston will meet on Wednesday at Spirit Communications Park at 7 p.m.