LSU claims SEC title, USC wins East

South Carolina had an opportunity to win the SEC Championship with a win over LSU Saturday. The Gamecocks were unable to beat the Tigers, but thanks to Auburn's win over Florida and Mississippi State's sweep of Kentucky, the Gamecocks are the Eastern Division Champions for the second consecutive year.

For the second time in three seasons, the South Carolina baseball team had to sit and watch their opponent celebrate an SEC Championship at Carolina Stadium. Florida won two of three games in 2010 to capture the SEC and LSU did the same Saturday with a 3-2 win in 10 innings.

LSU sent eight batters to the plate to face four different Carolina pitchers, both runs coming on two-out singles. Tyler Webb came in with two outs and two and allowed pinch hitter Jackson Slaid and Mason Katz to each single and drive in the two runs. Webb left after Katz's single after failing to record the final out of the inning. Logan Munson gave the Gamecocks a chance when he stranded the bases loaded after striking out Tyler Moore.

"Tyler Webb has been a key part of our program the last couple of years," head coach Ray Tanner said. "He comes in and goes 3-2 on a hitter and the guy gets a hit. I don't think it's a failure on Tyler's part so much as a good job by the hitter. You want to put the right guy out there and I felt that we did that."

Evan Marzilli led off the bottom of the 10th with a double that Jared Foster – who entered to play center for Slaid – misplayed. Adam Matthews followed with a single to right off LSU closer Nick Goody, and Christian Walker hit a sacrifice fly to center for the first out. Goody recovered to get LB Dantzler to fly out to right and Grayson Greiner hit a pop-up in foul territory to end the game.

"When you are in a situation on a daily basis that you're expecting to win, it stings," Tanner said. "I do believe there is some perspective that we have a chance to regroup. We're going to go to Hoover in a few days and hopefully we will play well. I'd like to stick around there and play for as long as we can next week. These guys have done a good job. We had some lumps along the way and scuffled some, but we kept battling. Hopefully we can regroup and make a run and try and get hot at the right time."

Much like the first two games, LSU wasted no time getting onto the board. Arby Fields sent one off the wall in right for a stand-up double, advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored on a Mason Katz groundout to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Carolina would strike back in the third inning after Evan Marzilli led the inning off with a triple to the game in left center and Adam Matthews brought him home with a sacrifice fly. Little did anyone know at that point that there would not be another run scored for either team until the 10th inning.

Colby Holmes, who didn't know he was going to get the start until late Friday evening, was brilliant. Holmes went 6.2 innings, allowing one unearned run due to the ball getting by Greiner on just four hits, striking out three and not allowing a walk.

"Everything was working today," Holmes said. "My fastball was down for strikes, my slider was good. I through a couple of good change-ups at the end. I would have stayed out there longer but I wanted to do what was best for the team so I came out."

Holmes was the winning pitcher in last year's season finale that captured the SEC Championship for Carolina, and gave the Gamecocks an opportunity to do the same on Saturday.

"I was just wanting to come out and give the team as many innings as I could," Holmes said. "Coach (Tanner) came and asked me last night if I was good and I said ‘yeah, I'll give you everything I got.' I went out there and did what I could to put the team in a position to win."

Holmes, coming off an injury, struggled in a midweek appearance Tuesday against USC-Upstate. Despite the struggles, Tanner went with Holmes over freshman Jordan Montgomery and it proved to pay off.

"Certainly what Colby did is encouraging for me," Tanner said. "I anticipated optimistically getting three or four innings out of him based on his appearance early in the week. He felt pretty good and he's one of those players that when he says something you can trust him. I thought he was pretty good. He had some efficient innings and got us late into the ball game. That was encouraging. He was good."

Unlike the last two games, Carolina had plenty of opportunities to score. The Gamecocks left five runners in scoring position and eight on base overall. Just one clutch two-out hit could have been the hit to lift the Gamecocks to the SEC Championship.

"You're always frustrated when you can't capitalize on opportunities to score, but it's part of baseball," Marzilli said. "We wish we could have those back and get some hits, but we didn't. We have to move on and worry about the next game."

All was not lost for Carolina on Saturday. Despite the loss the Gamecocks still won the SEC East as Florida and Kentucky both lost. That gives Carolina the number two seed in the SEC Tournament, giving them a first round bye. They will play on Wednesday at a time to be determined.

"It was disappointing that we lost," Marzilli said. "Obviously we wanted to win that game. We put forth a good effort but came up a little short. The postseason is a new season so we have to get ready for that."

LSU wrapped up a national seed with the win and Florida will also take a national seed. That leaves the final one up for grabs between Kentucky and Carolina. Whoever fares better in Hoover may very well get that final seed.

"If we go out in Hoover and win a good share of our games we have a good chance," Holmes said of earning that national seed. "Either way we just have to go out there and play the game."

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