Game Story By: Jeff Roberson
USC was down two runs after the first inning, but the Gamecocks didn’t let that bother them. Carolina scored nine unanswered runs and claimed the series after winning 5-1 Thursday night.
Webb, a true freshman right-hander, was masterful all night long in game two. He had 14 strikeouts in the contest, and it wasn’t until the seventh inning that he ran into any kind of trouble after that first inning.
Webb (5-1) had only allowed one hit to that point, and his only walks – two of them – had come in the first inning when Ole Miss scored its two runs.
In the seventh inning, down 5-2, Ole Miss threatened for the first time since the first inning. The Rebels got runners on first and second with singles from Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman. But Webb was up to the task at hand.
Errol Robinson then sac bunted both runners over to second and third respectively, and Michael Fitzsimmons came to the plate but struck out. Connor Cloyd then struck out looking, and the Gamecocks continued to lead by three runs.
A Chris Cullen RBI single back in the second inning had trimmed the early Ole Miss lead to 2-1 after Dom Thompson-Williams had reached on a base hit.
In the third, South Carolina took the lead. After Marcus Mooney and Gene Cone reached on a single and a walk, LT Tolbert got a base hit to score Mooney. Later in the inning it was Thompson-Williams who got a base hit to score Cone.
In the fifth inning, the Gamecocks scored two more runs to take a 5-2 lead. They were able to tack on a run in the eighth and three more in the ninth for a seven-run advantage.
Webb made it through one hitter in the bottom of the ninth. The Rebels’ J.B. Woodman singled to lead things off for Ole Miss, and Webb’s night was done. It was just the Rebels’ fourth hit of the game. They’d add three more in the frame.
Webb was replaced junior right-hander Reed Scott and Ole Miss added three runs. After a RBI double by Michael Fitzsimmons, Josh Reagan entered for Scott and finished things off for USC.
The Gamecock offense was as potent as its defense and pitching on this night. South Carolina had 14 hits, led by a 3-for-5 performance by Cullen.
Ole Miss was led by Bortles with a 3-for-4 night and three RBI. The Rebels had seven total hits.
Game three between the Gamecocks (22-2 overall, 5-0 SEC) and the Rebels (20-4, 2-3) is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.
Mike Bianco: On the game: “I hate to take anything away from (Braden) Webb because he pitched so well and struck out 14. But we start the game and get two walks and we take advantage. But they came back and got a run, then a couple more to make it 3-2. We looked kind of shell-shocked after that. We just really didn’t put any at-bats together until the seventh or eighth inning. We went like five innings without a base runner. I just think we couldn’t bounce back. Their team showed a lot of toughness. We showed no toughness through the middle innings.”
On starter Chad Smith, who is 2-2 and allowed five runs on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts: “Today he was just inconsistent. They’re tough. They get so many hits with runners in scoring position, so many hits with two strikes. They compete and battle. They don’t do a lot of small ball stuff. But when they do, they execute. They’re good.”
On if the final three runs the Rebels scored in the contest will help their mindset Saturday: “I don’t know if we take any momentum from this game. We’ll evaluate a little bit and put it in the books. This was a bad one for us.”
Brady Feigl: Feigl, who relieved Chad Smith and went 3.2 innings with two earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts: “I felt fine. Everything was good to go. I just stayed in it and tried to give us a chamce.”
Feigl on what Bianco said to the team: “He said we need to be tougher, which is completely right. In the non-conference you can beat them and do a good job, but it’s different in the SEC. They’re going to stand there and they’re gonna make you take it. We’ve got to be tougher.”
Colby Bortles: “They out-toughed us. That’s what it came down to. They showed more confidence and more swagger. That’s what it came down to.”
On the team’s defensive woes: “We’re a really good defensive team. And stuff happens. We’re going to kick it sometimes, and we’re going to make an error. We’re going to try to eliminate those errors and keep it to a minimum.”