USC will not have 40 wins on their resume when the NCAA Baseball Tournament Selection Committee finishes their work over the weekend. A 40th win would have gone a long way toward impressing the committing and perhaps cementing a home regional for the Gamecocks. They may still host, but they’ll have to sweat a little until the Sunday night announcement.
The loss drops the Gamecocks (39-19) to #8 in the Thursday afternoon RPI. After starting the season 34-6 and rising to #1 in the RPI, the Gamecocks have gone 5-13, including 4-11 in their last 15 SEC games. They do have the #3 overall strength of schedule and 20 Q1 wins in their favor for the committee to consider.
The Gamecocks were eliminated from the SEC Tournament Thursday afternoon with a 5-0 loss to Texas A&M. The Gamecocks managed just one hit against three Aggie pitchers, and that was of the infield variety. They only had three well hit balls that reached the outfield, and the Aggies made good plays on each.
The one hit by the Gamecocks, a single to short by Will Tippett, is their low mark of the season in that category. Their previous low was three. And the shutout is their second of the season.
The Gamecocks did have eight other baserunners, seven by walks and one by plunking, but in each case, there were already two outs in the inning when a runner got on base. USC was 0-9 with runners on and two outs.
Though they had runners on in every inning except the third and fourth, the Gamecocks did not get a runner into scoring position until the seventh. With two men gone, Aggie reliever Chris Cortez, he of the 100 MPH fastball, walked three straight batters. The Aggies brought in lefty Matt Dillard to face lefthanded hitting Gavin Casas. In a similar spot in Wednesday’s loss to LSU, Casas took a called third strike. He did the same this time on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.
Mark Kingston went with two of his best available arms in this one, beginning with Jack Mahoney and following him with Matthew Becker. Mahoney (6-4) went the first four innings and allowed four runs on five hits, including a triple and a double. He struck out two and walked two.
Becker pitched the next three innings and gave up two hits and an unearned run. He struck out three and walked one. Chris Veach finished up with the final inning of work.
The Aggies scored the only run they would need in the third. With two outs and a runner on first, Trevor Werner hit a deep ball to center that Evan Stone ran down as he crashed into the wall. But the ball popped out of his glove for an RBI triple.
In the fourth, Mahoney issued a pair of walks to start the inning, and they were followed by an RBI double, an RBI ground out to short and a sacrifice fly to left for a 4-0 lead. The Aggies scored the game’s final run in the fifth. Becker struck out the leadoff man, but he reached on a passed ball. A single and a fielder’s choice at second put runners on the corners, and a sacrifice fly to right scored the run.
Gamecock coach Mark Kingston firmly believes his team has done enough to host a regional, citing their overall record, strength of schedule and Q1 victories. Regardless of where they play, he plans to have his guys as prepared as possible for the NCAA Tournament through their upcoming practices. This will mark Kingston’s third trip to the NCAA Tournament in his five full seasons with the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks played Thursday without catcher Cole Messina who is in concussion protocol and thus questionable for next week. Kingston said they will move Braylen Wimmer back into a field position from DH next week. He’s optimistic Will Sanders will be a go but not as confident about injured second baseman Will McGillis.