Big inning dooms Gamecocks in loss to Tide

It all fell apart for South Carolina (33-9, 15-5 SEC) in the second inning as Sam Dyson allowed five runs that eventually doomed the Gamecocks to a 6-4 loss. The win for Alabama (28-16, 9-11 SEC) tied the series and sets up a decisive rubber match tomorrow afternoon.

Close, but not close enough.

The rollercoaster ride continued for starter Sam Dyson on Saturday, as both he and the Gamecock offense couldn't overcome a five-run second inning from Alabama. That big inning, combined with the struggles of USC's hitters spelled a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Crimson Tide.

Coming off his complete game performance that garnered SEC pitcher of the week honors last time out against Georgia, Sam Dyson got off to a strong start in this one as well, cruising through a first inning that saw him register two strikeouts and appear to be preparing for a dominant day.

However, the Alabama offense was able to find the gaps against the Gamecock defense in the second, an inning that never really saw them drive the ball, but score five runs nonetheless.

USC got off to a quick start against Alabama starter Adam Morgan, who came into the game with a 5.91 ERA despite matching Dyson's 4-2 record. However, he was able to turn out the lights on the Gamecocks power surge just a night after they hit four home runs.

"Morgan was really good," said Ray Tanner. "We got the two runs early and he kind of stuffed us in the middle innings. Then Walker finally got to one that got us back into the game a little bit. It was a well pitched game by both guys with the exception of one inning each."

Despite his later successes, Gamecock DH Parker Bangs was also impressed by the pitching of Morgan.

"He was just keeping everybody off balance," noted Bangs. "Keeping the ball low, mixing up his pitches, he was locating pretty well with all three. When somebody's doing that, it's tough to get to them against a guy that's locating three pitches at the same time."

The luck of Ray Tanner's substitutions continued in the first as Whit Merrifield led it off with a bunt single, and with one out, Christian Walker singled as well to put two on for Bangs. Parker delivered with a two-RBI double down the left field line to score Whit and Walker all the way from first.

In the second, Dyson opened with another strikeout, but the hit parade began after that for the Crimson Tide. Five straight hits including an RBI double from Cody Trotter and two RBI singles from Cal Tinsley and Taylor Dugas quickly put Bama ahead 3-2.

With two outs, it appeared that Dyson might be able to get out of it, but Josh Rutledge delivered again for the Tide, sticking a single right between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Whit Merrifield for two more runs. Those two would prove to be all it took for Adam Morgan, who settled in after his rough start, eventually throwing 7.1 innings and giving up 4 earned runs on eight hits while also striking out eight.

"You've got to give credit to Alabama; they found a way to get some hits in that inning," said Tanner. "I think a six hit inning, he only gave up eight for the game and six came in one inning and a couple of them weren't hit that well, but they look like line drives in the book. He was really good other than that one inning."

Dyson said that it was tough to watch the Alabama offense single him to death rather than hit the ball hard all over the park.

"They were just putting the bat on the ball, three good pitches," said Dyson. "I mean I left a couple over the plate, but they didn't always hit it hard they just were aggressive and put the bat on the ball and some of them dropped in there."

It was Bangs that proved to be one of the few bright spots for Gamecock offense on this day. The designated hitter finished 3-3 with all three hits being doubles, and two runs batted in. He tied the Gamecock record for most doubles in a game with that mark.

Just when it appeared the Gamecocks might close the gap in the third, Christian Walker was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from first on Bangs' double. This big play set the tone for Morgan, who would allow just two more baserunners before running into trouble in the eighth.

Tanner said that he told his team they would have a chance to come back but were just unable to do so against the Alabama pitching.

"We've got a bunch of frames left on that board; we've got a chance to come back," added Tanner. "But Morgan stifled us, so that was sort of the difference in the game. We still had a chance to make it interesting, but they did a nice job."

Morgan was especially imposing when facing left-handed batters today, as he and the Alabama bullpen held lefties to 0-14 on the afternoon.

But Dyson was equally impressive after his bad inning, and set a season high for strikeouts with ten, walking just one batter. All five of his runs were earned, and came in that decisive second inning.

After the second Dyson gave up just one hit on a single to David Kindred.

The Gamecocks began to mount a comeback effort in the eighth inning as Tanner's roster move to put Walker in paid off in a big way. After Bradley Jr. walked, Walker blasted a home run deep and out to left, pulling USC back within a run at 5-4.

However, that was as close as they would get.

Alabama was able to add an insurance run in the ninth on a Clay Jones bases loaded sacrifice fly, and that held up with Thomas, Jones, and Matthews going in order to end the game.

Other than Bangs and Walker's big hits, the Gamecocks were able to muster just four singles, none of which brought any men in to score.

Morgan picked up the win to move to 5-2 on the season while Dyson fell to 4-3 with the loss.

Jake Smith, who played most of the game at third base, pitched the final 1.2 innings to pick up his second save of the year.

Walker's home run was his fourth this year and also brought his RBI total up to twenty five. But even the Gamecocks can be victims of too little, too late, and this was a day when the comeback would not be in order for Tanner's squad. The team will rely on Jay Brown to try and seal the series victory tomorrow.

"We're going to try to win it, that's for sure," said Tanner. "But I think I know my team pretty good at this point, and we kind of know who we are and what we've got. We're going to battle and we're going to scrap and scratch and claw and try to get in a position to win. But we're playing a good club. They'll be ready to go tomorrow too."

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