Game Story By: Jeff Roberson
After Bramlett walked Gene Cone and LT Tolbert, it was Alex Destino and Jonah Bride who came through with base hits to get those runs home and give the visiting Gamecocks a lead they never relinquished.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight,” said Bramlett, now 4-1 after his first loss of the season. “Credit them. They have a great lineup. They’re a club that comes out swinging. It was just one of those nights. I feel confident we’ll come back tomorrow.”
“He just didn’t look like himself certainly,” said Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco. “Got ahead of the leadoff guy (Gene Cone) and threw eight straight balls. I don’t know if he’s ever done that in his life. Not even close eight balls. He battled and did the best he could.”
USC starter Clark Schmidt got the best of the Rebel hitters as he managed a three up, three down bottom of the first. Then in the top of the second inning, South Carolina added to its total with a solo home run over the right field wall by Cone.
With Schmidt pitching well and his team leading 3-0, the Gamecocks (21-2, 4-0 SEC) were in excellent shape, even early in this one.
Schmidt, who got the win to move to 6-0 on the season, went six and two-thirds innings, allowing only one run on nine hits with eight strikeouts and a walk.
“He didn’t walk a guy,” Lartigue said of Schmidt. “No free base runners are out there, and you’ve got to earn every bit of it. He was in the strike zone, was able to command, and he’s got good stuff. That can be tough at times.”
The first hit for the homestanding Rebels (20-3, 2-2 SEC) came in the bottom of the second inning, a one-out single by second baseman Tate Blackman. Catcher Henri Lartigue followed that with a single to put runners at first and second. But Schmidt allowed no damage as the early Rebel threat ended there.
USC’s John Jones led off the third with a double to put his team in business once again. But he was eventually stranded at third base as the Rebels’ Bramlett worked out of trouble.
First baseman Will Golsan got something started for Ole Miss with a one-out single in the bottom of the third inning. An infield single by shortstop Errol Robinson put Rebels on first and second. J.B. Woodman’s two-out single to right scored Golsan. But Schmidt’s strikeout of Tate Blackman ended the frame as South Carolina led 3-1.
In the fifth inning it was a Dom Thompson-Williams RBI single that increased the Gamecock lead to 4-1 and chased Bramlett from the contest.
But from the get-go, Bramlett wasn’t his normal self. He recalled a moment early in this one that might
David Parkinson came on in relief for the Rebs and promptly walked Bride to load the bases. The Gamecocks had an excellent opportunity to increase their lead. Chris Cullen reached on a ground out to third, but Rebel third baseman Colby Bortles threw home to catcher Henri Lartigue to force John Jones out. DC Arendas struck out and USC remained up by three runs.
Back to back doubles in the eighth by Bride and Cullen gave USC more cushion and a 5-1 advantage heading into the Rebel ninth.
Bramlett (4-1) was saddled with his first loss of the season. For the Gamecocks, Josh Reagan got his seventh save of the campaign.
Although USC had 13 hits and Ole Miss 11, it was as much when the teams got those hits and who was where on base that mattered.
“It really just came down today to the timely hit,” Bianco said. “Both teams swung it pretty well. They got all the big hits. I say that as a compliment and not as an excuse. We just didn’t get any big hits.”
“One of the keys to winning a game is the timely hit,” he said. “We weren’t able to do that tonight. The great thing about baseball is you get to play again tomorrow.”
The teams play game two of this series at 6:30 p.m. Friday.