Tanner English broke a 2-2 tie with a RBI triple in the top of the ninth inning and scored on a balk as 10th ranked South Carolina defeated second ranked LSU 4-2 on Saturday evening in front of an actual attendance of 10,246 fans at Alex Box Stadium, the largest actual attendance in Alex Box Stadium history. The Gamecocks improve to 32-12, and 12-8 in the SEC with LSU dropping to 39-5 and 16-4 in league play. The rubber game of the series is set for 3 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ESPN.
With the score deadlocked at two entering the ninth, the Gamecocks caught a break to open the frame as Grayson Greiner reached base on a fielding error by LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, his second error of the game. With one out and Greiner still on first base, English worked a 2-1 count against LSU reliever Chris Cotton before drilling a triple into the gap in right-center. The three base hit was his third triple of the season and second of the series vs. the Tigers. English then scored on a balk charged to Cotton, increasing the lead to a pair of runs. LSU looked to rally in the bottom of the ninth as JaCoby Jones doubled followed by an infield single by Jared Foster against Gamecock left-hander Tyler Webb to give the Tigers runners on the corners with no outs. Webb dug in though and fanned Sean McMullen and Mark Laird with strikeouts and ended the game with a flyout by Bregman to left-center sealing the Carolina victory.
South Carolina senior left-hander Adam Westmoreland earned the win with a scoreless inning of relief with a strikeout. He is now 5-1 on the year. Webb’s scoreless ninth marked his 13th save of the season. Cotton suffered the loss and is now 2-1 on the year after allowing two runs, on earned on one hit.
The Gamecocks won despite LSU’s 14-8 advantage in hits. Eight different Gamecocks recorded hits on Saturday evening. Raph Rhymes went 3-for-4 with two runs with Bregman, Jones and Foster all tallying two hits apiece to lead LSU at the plate.
“We beat a great team in an incredible baseball environment tonight,” said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. “I’m proud of my guys for not giving in and still fighting and trying to win the game. Our pitchers were terrific. Our three lefties, Jordan Montgomery, Adam Westmoreland and Tyler Webb kept them to two runs and Tanner got the big hit for us.”
Before the ninth inning dramatics, both South Carolina sophomore Jordan Montgomery and LSU junior right-hander Ryan Eades battled back and forth in a great pitcher’s duel.
South Carolina took advantage of a LSU error to strike with two runs in the top of the first inning. Graham Saiko reached base on a fielding error by Bregman to open the game. The freshman shortstop could not handle a hard grounder with a backhand attempt giving the Gamecocks the leadoff runner on base. A bloop single by Chase Vergason put runners on first and second and after Joey Pankake’s successful sacrifice bunt, Saiko would score on a RBI base hit from LB Dantzler to right field. Dantzler knocked a 0-2 pitch from Eades into right field for a single. With two outs and runners on the corners, Brison Celek delivered with a RBI base hit to left field scoring Vergason. Celek’s hit also came with two strikes as he knocked a 1-2 pitch just past Bregman into left.
The Tigers cut the Gamecock lead to one run in the bottom of the second inning. Raph Rhymes led off with a double to right-center. After a groundout by Christian Ibarra moved him over to third base, he would score on Ty Ross’ sacrifice fly to center. The same combination would tie the game up at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. This time Rhymes doubled to left-center. After a sacrifice bunt, he scored on Ross’ RBI groundout to Pankake at shortstop.
Montgomery went seven innings and allowed two runs on 10 hits with no walks and two strikeouts. Eades also went seven innings and allowed two runs, both unearned, on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.