USC was two outs away from a crucial victory over Georgia Friday night at Founders Park, but Cade Austin couldn’t close out the 14th ranked Bulldogs in the ninth as they rallied for a 3-2 win in the opener of the SEC weekend series. The Bulldogs turned a pair of walks into runs to overcome a 2-1 deficit and snap a two-game losing streak to the Gamecocks.
USC took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on an RBI double by Colin Burgess and an error on the Georgia second baseman who mishandled a bases loaded ground ball the pitcher deflected slightly. However, Kevin Hogan was cut down at home for the third out as he was trying to score from second.
Gamecock starter Noah Hall made that lead hold through seven innings. He scattered seven hits, struck out ten and walked two. Austin started the eighth and yielded a leadoff double to Connor Tate. With one out, Tate tried to score from second on a single to left, but Josiah Sightler cut him down at the plate for the second out. Austin got a fly out to center to end the inning.
The Gamecocks got a potential insurance run on the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Brandt Belk led off with a single and was bunted to second. But he was later picked off, and Braylen Wimmer struck out to end the inning.
Austin opened the top of the ninth with two walks around a strikeout. A single to right by Cole Tate scored the tying run. Next up, Corey Collins hit a hard chopper to Kevin Madden at third. Madden chose to go to second to start a double play instead of trying to cut down the lead run at the plate. The Gamecocks only got the out at second and the go-ahead run scored.
The Bulldogs brought in Jack Gowen, sporting a .188 ERA, to save the victory, and he did just that, setting down the Gamecocks in order with a pair of strikeouts and a fly to right to earn his fourth save. Austin (1-1) took the loss and Will Pearson (2-1) got the win with two innings of one-hit relief.
The Gamecocks managed just five hits, two by Belk who extended his hitting streak to 18 games. USC is now 14-15 overall and 3-7 in the SEC. Georgia is 23-7 and 7-3. Game two of the series will be Saturday at 4:00 PM.
Mark Kingston postgame