COLUMBIA, S.C. (TheBigSpur) - South Carolina found itself in the exact same position on Sunday against Northwestern as it did on Friday and the end result was the same. Free bases via walk were critical as the Gamecocks lost in 10 innings 4-3 to drop the series to the Big 10 school.
In both games, the Gamecocks (5-2) were clinging to a one-run lead but allowed the game to be tied in the seventh inning. Opportunities to score were missed, and then untimely walks led to an eventual loss.
The feeling was familiar, and one that head coach Mark Kingston said that the team will have to learn from.
“It’s a new team that is learning. Friday night and tonight, close games need to be won and there are certain things that need to be done to win these games,” Kingston said. “We’ll learn as we go, but you want to win when you learn these lessons. I hope this one stings for them and they’re a captive audience as we continue to teach them how to win.”
The Wildcats scored the eventual winning run in the top of the 10th inning when senior Graham Lawson gave up a leadoff single and then three walks in the inning. Charlie Maxwell had the critical at-bat as he went from a 2-2 count to a walk after fouling away a trio of full-count pitches to bring home the game-winning run.
“You got to throw strikes,” Kingston said. “We gave them those runs on Friday night because we walked them and gave them that rally today because we walked them. That’s unacceptable.”
Sophomore Daniel Lloyd, who pitched two innings allowing no runs and one hit on Sunday, experienced a similar fate on Friday when he allowed two walks to begin the 10th inning, which went for the first loss of the season.
The Wildcats took the lead in the top of the third inning when command briefly left South Carolina starting pitcher Brannon Jordan, who walked two and threw two wild pitches, one allowing a run to score in the frame.
But Jordan was good the rest of the way, only giving up a solo home run in the sixth inning. He allowed two runs on two hits with three walks and nine strikeouts over six innings of work.
“He showed me he’s one of our best guys,” Kingston said. “Two earned runs in six innings, we’ll take that. Every time we’ll take that.”
The Gamecocks couldn’t get much going offensively on the day as only junior Noah Campbell notched an RBI hit. The switch-hitter, who dug in as a lefty facing a right-handed pitcher, launched a three-run home run into his team’s bullpen to put the Gamecocks on top 3-1.
South Carolina had seven hits on the day but that’s the only one that would bring in a run. The Gamecocks left 10 runners on base, struck out 11 times and was just 2-of-12 with runners in scoring position.
“Guys missed too many fastballs today,” Kingston said. “They guy they threw had pretty good stuff, mixed his pitches and was up to 93, but we’re a team that should hit the fastball better than we did when we had the opportunities. And we will.”
A wild play in the seventh inning tied the game. Sophomore Cam Tringali saw an 0-1 fastball driven deep to right field with one out and runners on the corners. Right fielder Andrew Eyster made a leaping play at the wall to make the catch, and he doubled off the runner at first base for the third out of the inning.
But before the out could be made, the runner on third base tagged up and scored to knot the game at three apiece.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Eyster hit a sharp single through the left side with designated hitter Anthony Amicangelo in scoring position on second base. Amicangelo never hesitated around third base, but he was thrown out on a close play at the plate to keep the score tied.
Junior Jeff Heinrich hit a double off the top of the right-field wall that would have been the eventual game-winner had it carried another foot or two.
It was all part of a frustrating day offensively, which saw the Gamecocks put the leadoff hitter and tying run on base in the bottom of the 10th inning. Wes Clarke, who was hit by a pitch, advanced to second base on a single by Bryant Bowen, but the two were left there as Heinrich and Dallas Beaver both popped up to end the game.
It was an all-around difficult day for the Gamecocks, and a day too similar to Friday’s loss.
South Carolina will try to get back in the win column on Tuesday against North Florida. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on SEC Network +.