Bullpen fails again as Gamecocks drop series to Tigers

Bullpen fails again as Gamecocks drop series to Tigers
The Gamecocks fell to Clemson in the last game of the series Sunday. (Source: Ryan Bethea, 247 Sports)

CLEMSON, S.C. (THE BIG SPUR) - New day, same problems. Four South Carolina relievers combined to give up four earned runs as Clemson was able to take the rivalry series with a 5-2 win on Sunday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Gamecocks (7-4) starting pitcher Brannon Jordan gave up one run in five innings and made a two-RBI single in the second inning from Noah Campbell stand up as long as he could, but the bullpen arms just weren’t good enough for the third time in four losses this season.

The loss traced back, according to head coach Mark Kingston, to the win on Saturday. Instead of sophomore Brett Kerry being able to come in after Jordan, the Gamecocks had to bridge the gap with other relievers. And that was because Kingston had to turn to Kerry on Saturday afternoon as his team was clinging to a lead in what was once a lopsided affair.

The trio between Jordan and Kerry were unable to be effective.

“At the end of the day, we lost today because we gave up four runs in the seventh inning (on Saturday),” Kingston said. “And if we had done our job yesterday, Brett Kerry is in the game in the seventh inning (today).”

Over the three-game series to the Tigers, the South Carolina bullpen allowed seven walks, hit a batter and allowed eight earned runs on 11 hits over nine innings pitched.

“I’d say so,” sophomore Cam Tringali said, when asked if he was surprised by the bullpen’s performance so far this season.

“We have a bunch of talented guys back there. We will getting it working. We have a bunch of guys who are going to work hard and get back to it and we’ll be alright.”

Just as it happened on Saturday, the Tigers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning with the Gamecocks answering back with two in the top of the second inning. The home side took advantage of some early erraticness from Gamecocks starting pitcher Brannon Jordan, who saw a leadoff walk come around to score on a sacrifice fly by Bryar Hawkins.

Campbell came through with a big hit in the top of the second inning which, just like the day before, came in a two-out rally. Graduate transfer Dallas Beaver shot a single through the right side and moved to third base on a double by junior Andrew Eyster.

Campbell, who was 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in the series prior to the at-bat, knocked a first pitch ground ball back through the middle scoring both runs. It was a lead, but a perilous one that the Gamecocks would make hold until the bottom of the seventh inning.

“It’s always nice to come through for your team,” Campbell said. “I tried not to think too much about the past couple of days. It’s over and it’s gone. All I had was that at-bat at that point to help the team, so that was all that was going through my mine.”

Jordan wouldn’t allow any more runs, but stayed in trouble throughout the game because of walks and hit batters. In five innings pitched without allowing a hit, he only faced the minimum on one occasion.

With Jordan’s pitch count up at 90, the Gamecocks had to turn to their bullpen for the final four innings. He would finish the day with five walks and four strikeouts.

That’s when the South Carolina bullpen took over and made a mess of the end of the game.

The Gamecocks were fortunate to get out of a bases loaded, no outs situation which came about when reliever Graham Lawson gave up a single and a walk to start the sixth inning. After the Gamecocks ran a failed bunt defense to load the bases with no one out, Lloyd caught a break when a fly ball to left field popped out of Eyster’s glove on a diving catch attempt. A runner was forced out at home, and hitter Dylan Brewer passed the runner when he rounded first base, which caused him to be ruled out. Sophomore Daniel Lloyd struck out Sam Hall to end the inning.

But the Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning with no one out when Lloyd allowed a pair of singles before giving the ball away to sophomore Cam Tringali, who hit the first batter he faced and then proceeded to give up a two-RBI double and RBI single.

“Growing up wearing these colors and always cheering against them and then having something like that happen, it sucks,” Tringali said.

Sophomore Brett Kerry entered and held the Tigers at bay giving up one hit with a strikeout in 1 1/3 shutout innings, but the damage by the home side was already done.

Clemson relievers Mat Clark and Carson Spiers combined to throw five shutout innings allowing only two hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

The Gamecocks were only 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position in the game and 2-for-12 with runners on base.

South Carolina will return to the field on Tuesday when it travels to Fluor Field in Greenville to take on Furman. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

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