Hoover, AL: LSU got better overall pitching and more timely hitting than USC in Wednesday’s first game of the SEC Tournament in Hoover and advanced to the winner’s bracket with a 10-3 win over the Gamecocks. USC will face either Texas A&M or Arkansas Thursday morning in an elimination game.
Eli Jones started for the Gamecocks and kept them in the game through four innings. His only mistake up to that point was a two-run homer in the second he gave up to Brayden Jobert. Meantime, LSU starter and winner Thatcher Hurd, who had an ERA in SEC games over 13, carried a perfect game into the fifth inning.
The Gamecocks finally got to Hurd in the top of the fifth with a leadoff home run by Ethan Petry, his 22nd of the season. Talmadge LeCroy followed with a single, but he would not advance, and USC trailed 2-1 going to the bottom of the fifth. That’s when things unraveled for the Gamecocks on the mound and at the plate.
Jones gave up back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the fifth and was lifted for Nick Proctor, and Proctor just did not have it. He proceeded to give up a single, two walks and two sacrifice flies that led to four runs and a 6-1 LSU advantage. Proctor then allowed another single and hit a batter before being replaced by Jackson Phipps. Only nine of Proctor’s 23 pitches went for strikes.
The Gamecocks tried to mount a rally but could not come up with that break through hit in the top of the sixth. They loaded the bases with one out, then Petry and LeCroy drew back-to-back walks to score two runs. So, the big inning was there and a chance to catch the Tigers was on the table, but Gavin Casas struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch and Will Tippett grounded back to the pitcher to end the threat.
LSU answered those two runs with two of their own in the bottom of the sixth for an 8-3 lead. USC tried to respond in the seventh with runners on first and second and one out, but again the big hit was not to come as Braylen Wimmer and Jonathan French both struck out.
The Tiges plated two more runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 10-3 lead. The Gamecocks’ last scoring threat came in the ninth when they got two on with two out, but Wimmer popped to second to end the game.
USC finished with just five hits including 1-11 with runners on base and 0-6 with runners in scoring position. The Gamecocks were 0-9 batting with two men out. Conversely, LSU had 12 hits, five with two men out, and was 9-17 with runners on base, including 5-10 with runners in scoring position. The Tigers also drew seven walks and were twice hit by pitches.
The Gamecocks drop to 39-18 with the loss and LSU improves to 43-13 with their second win in three games this season against USC. The win was also #400 for LSU coach Jay Johnson.
The Gamecocks lost starting catcher Cole Messina after two innings due to concerns about a concussion after he took a foul tip off his mask. He is in concussion protocol leaving his availability for Thursday’s game in doubt.