There’s just something about Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (formerly Regions Park) and the SEC Tournament that bring out the worst of USC baseball. Control pitchers lose their control. Smart players do dumb things. Clutch hitters don’t come thru.
The Gamecocks combined all of that into one ugly package Wednesday night in a 12-0 loss to Mississippi State that ended after seven innings because of the ten run rule. It’s USC’s most lopsided loss ever in the tournament. The Gamecocks fall to 42-15 while Mississippi State improves to 37-20.
How bad has it been in Hoover for USC recently? The Gamecocks have not won more than one game in the tournament since 2007 and with Wednesday’s loss they have dropped nine of their last eleven in this ritzy suburb of Birmingham.
Usually reliable starter Jordan Montgomery didn’t have it Wednesday night. He walked four and three of those free passes eventually scored. The third inning was his undoing. Trailing 1-0, Montgomery allowed an infield single and two walks to load the bases with one out. A fielder’s choice and a single plated two runs to make it a 3-0 game. A walk and a RBI single in the fourth made it a 4-0 game and ended Montgomery’s night and saddlling him with his fifth loss against seven victories this season.
Taylor Widener kept the Bulldogs at bay retiring seven in a row until the seventh when he gave up back to back singles and then a three run homer to Brett Pirtle that put the game out of reach at 7-0. The Bulldogs went on to add five more runs in the inning as they sent 14 men to the plate and left the Gamecocks in an 12-0 hole.
And that meant the ten run rule came into play since the Bulldogs had a lead of at least ten runs after seven innings. So, the game ended after the bottom of the seventh. It’s the second time USC has lost in a run-ruled game in the SEC tournament.
USC had a great opportunity in the second after Grayson Greiner led off with a double. But he was thrown out at third on a hard hit ball to short by Joey Pankake. DC Arendas singled to put runners on the corners but Tanner English flied to center and Connor Bright grounded out to second to end the threat.
The Gamecocks had another threat in the third. Bulldog starter Trevor Fitts was lifted after yielding back to back walks to open the inning. Hard throwing lefty Jacob Liindgren saw Max Schrock advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt then struck out Kyle Martin and Greiner to end the threat. Lindgren retired all 12 batters he faced striking out six in earning his sixth victory in seven decisions. Myles Gentry finished up by striking out two more Gamecocks in the bottom of the seventh. The three Bulldog pitchers allowed just two hits and struck out nine.
USC falls into the loser’s bracket and will face Florida in Thursday’s second game which is slated for a 2:30 PM start. Jack Wynkoop is expected to get the ball for the Gamecocks. The Gators won two of three in the regular season series in Columbia.