Gamecocks come up short in 8-7 loss

It was an exercise in frustration for South Carolina on Saturday, as they saw three bases loaded chances go by the wayside in an 8-7 loss to Mississippi State. The Gamecock bats finally woke up for a 4-run 8th inning, but the rally came up just one run short. Ben Bracewell shut the door on the game and Carolina's home winning streak.

An 8th inning rally fell short for the Gamecocks, who tried their best to come back from an 8-3 deficit but ended up falling just one run short.

"We battled in situations, Dyson was not sharp, but when he left we were within striking distance," said Ray Tanner after the game. "And we left some run scoring opportunities on the table today which came back to haunt us a little bit. You have to give Stratton credit, he made a couple pitches to get out of some jams."

Mississippi State got off to another strong start in this game, this time getting 3 first inning runs against Sam Dyson and never looking back.

The first inning was also marked by a blown run-down play that ended up costing the Gamecocks big.

With two runners on and nobody out, State first baseman Connor Powers grounded one straight back to Dyson, and after throwing home, Luke Adkins was caught in a run-down between home and third base. As the runners converged on third, neither one was tagged out, and eventually everyone was safe, and the bases were loaded. Ryan Collins responded with a 2-run single, and Ryan Duffy got a sacrifice fly to end the top of the 1st at 3-0.

State added runs in the 2nd and 3rd to trail 5-1 through 3 innings. Dyson's afternoon was marked by inconsistency, as he allowed 5 earned runs in 5-plus innings while hitting two batters and giving up 8 hits.

The Gamecock offense was not without chances though, as they left the bases loaded in the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th innings. The only run they were able to push across in the bases loaded situation was Christian Walker's hit by pitch.

In total, USC was forced to use 8 pitchers on the afternoon, who hit 5 State batters in total. Tyler Webb, Parker Bangs, and Nolan Belcher each gave up one earned run to complete the scoring for the Bulldogs.

"It's frustrating, I don't mind going to the bullpen but that's excessive," said Tanner. "I was trying to win; I was trying to get a matchup that would work. We were trying to stay within striking distance."

The 8th inning rally began quietly enough as Scott Wingo singled as many Gamecock fans were already heading for the exits at Carolina Stadium. After a Chad Girodo balk moved him over to second base, Whit Merrifield and Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with consecutive singles. Last night's hero, Brady Thomas, roped a ball down the left field line for a double, and picked up 2-RBI on the play.

Adrian Morales added an RBI groundout, but that would be all the Gamecocks could muster, as pinch hitter Nick Ebert grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

A rally was over as quickly as the dream of it began in the 9th, as State closer Ben Bracewell opened the inning with consecutive strikeouts of Walker and Wingo before Merrifield grounded out to short on the first pitch he saw.

It was only the second home loss of the season for South Carolina, who falls to 6-2 in conference on the year, with both losses coming to SEC Western Division foes.

Whit Merrifield finished the game 3-6 with a home run and 2 runs scored to lead the Gamecocks at the plate. Bradley Jr., Brady Thomas, and Jeffery Jones each added 2 hits on the afternoon, with Thomas also contributing 2 RBI's.

Dyson took the loss, and saw his record fall to 2-1, while Chris Stratton evened his record at 3-3 with the win. It was just the 3rd conference win of the season for Mississippi State.

With the win for State, it will be a rubber match tomorrow to see who wins the series. Coach Tanner said after the game how much his team values Sunday games in the SEC.

"I would say for sure," noted Tanner. "If you're going to be a great team at the end of the year, you've got to be able to win on Sundays. That's just the way it is. They'll be ready to go, they're starting a lefty, Whitney, and we're going to counter with Jay Brown, and it should be a great game tomorrow."

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