USC made a game of it after falling into a 9-1 hole against Mississippi State Saturday afternoon at Founders Park, but the deficit was too much to overcome as the Gamecocks fell to the Bulldogs 9-6. USC has now lost three straight SEC series and fallen under .500 in league play at 11-12.
The Bulldogs hammered three home runs in the first five innings in building their commanding lead. Gamecock starter Will Sanders gave up two of the long-balls, and five runs overall in 2.1 innings. Andrew Peters yielded the other blast, as he allowed three runs in two innings.
On the other side, Bulldog starter Will Bednar dominated Gamecock hitters. He struck out eight of the first ten batters he faced. Andrew Eyster got to him for a solo homer in the fourth, and Wes Clarke took him deep for a two run shot in the sixth, his 18th of the season. Otherwise, not much. Bednar threw 100 pitches over six innings, struck out 13 and did not walk a batter.
Trailing 9-3 going to the bottom of the seventh, the Gamecocks were able to chip away against reliever Brandon Smith. A pair of infield errors put runners on the corners with two outs. Eyster then popped a three run homer to right-center, his second homer and third hit of the day, to make it a 9-6 game.
USC relievers Wesley Sweatt, Jaret Bennett and Daniel Lloyd kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard over the final 3.2 innings, and that gave the Gamecocks’ some hope for a rally in the eighth and ninth innings. But Mississippi State’s outstanding closer Landon Sims was having none of that. He entered the game with five saves and a 0.60 ERA. He did allow a two-out walk in the eighth, but set the Gamecocks down in order in the ninth to finish off the game.
The Gamecocks will try to avoid being swept for the second straight weekend when they finish off this series at 2:00 PM Sunday. The Gamecocks are 27-17 overall and 11-12 in the SEC. They will send Thomas Farr to the mound to face freshman righty Jackson Fristoe who is 3-2 with a 4.97 ERA.