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May 31, 2014

Gamecocks fall 4-3 to Maryland

20140531 - Maryland post-game players and Coach Holbrook - PFC

For South Carolina Saturday night, the road to defeat was paved by a multitude of squandered chances.

South Carolina (43-17) allowed Maryland (38-21) to take a 4-0 second-inning lead and never fully recovered. Behind an outstanding performance on the mound from freshman right-hander Taylor Widener, the Gamecocks clawed their way back into the game, cutting Maryland's lead to one run in the sixth inning.

But the Gamecocks struggled to drive in baserunners down the stretch, ultimately falling 4-3 to the Terrapins in front of a Carolina Stadium crowd of 6,813.

It was South Carolina's first-ever NCAA Tournament loss at Carolina Stadium. The loss also snaps a 28-game home postseason winning streak that began in 2002.

"We pride ourselves on pitching and playing defense, and we did that for seven innings," said USC head coach Chad Holbrook. "But in the postseason, you have to do it for nine."

"We ultimately got what we deserved," Holbrook added later.

Maryland got off to a hot start, plating a run in the bottom of the first when Brandon Lowe pushed a one-out RBI single through the left side to score Charlie White. The Terrapins added three more runs in a two-out rally in the second inning to take a 4-0 lead.

Maryland first baseman LaMonte Wade roped an RBI double off of USC starter Jack Wynkoop (7-6). A batter later, Joey Pankake fielded a routine grounder that could have ended the inning and flung it wide of Kyle Martin at first base, sending the ball into foul territory and allowing two more runs to score.

"We didn't pitch and play defense early in the game," said Holbrook.

The play ended Wynkoop's day after 1 2/3 innings. The sophomore lefty has lost each of his last three starts, and is winless since May 10.

But the Gamecocks found salvation in freshman reliever Taylor Widener, who came on to get the final out of the second inning. The 6-foot-1 right-hander struck out Maryland cleanup man Jose Cuas to get out of the inning, then went on to hold the Terrapins scoreless the rest of the game.

The Aiken, South Carolina, native scattered two hits and four walks over 6 1/3 innings and struck out six batters. The outing was the longest of his career by two innings, and dropped his ERA to 1.79.

"My main focus was to just get one batter at a time and just make sure I was getting outs and trying to keep the team in the game," Widener said, adding that he didn't anticipate pitching that long. "I just went in and did what I had to do."

With Widener keeping Maryland's offense at bay, the Gamecocks slowly began mounting a comeback. After being blanked by Maryland freshman Mike Shawaryn (11-3) for the first three innings, the Gamecocks managed to plate a run in the fourth.

DC Arendas laced an RBI single into left field to shave Maryland's lead to 4-1, but Connor Bright grounded into a fielder's choice a batter later to end the inning, stranding two runners and setting the tone for South Carolina's night at the plate.

South Carolina got another big inning in the sixth, cutting the lead to 4-2 on an RBI double from Martin before trimming it again to 4-3 on an RBI sacrifice fly by Arendas.

But even behind a revved up crowd and a freshman pitching the game of his life on the mound, the Gamecocks could deal no more damage from there.

South Carolina put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning, but Max Schrock flew out and Pankake grounded out to end the inning. The Gamecocks put runners on first and second with one out again in the eighth inning, but Bright hit into a fielder's choice and Gene Cone struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt to end the inning.

And with runners on the corners and one out in the ninth inning, Pankake grounded into a game-ending double play.

"I felt like our guys were into the game. They were engaged," Holbrook said. "We were battling our tails off each and every pitching trying to make something happen.

"The innings that we had an opportunity to score more than two runs, we had our guys up at the plate. If you start the ninth inning and you say there's going to be runners at first and third with one out, we'd sign up for that every day.

"We had our chances. There were two unearned runs on the board, and we lost by a run. We had some opportunities at the plate."

Should South Carolina beat Campbell Sunday afternoon, the Gamecocks would need to beat Maryland at 7 Sunday night and again Monday night to win the Regional.

Holbrook said he isn't looking past Campbell, a team the Gamecocks beat 5-1 Friday night.

"I'm trying to win that first game tomorrow," Holbrook said. "That's what I told the team. I could care less if they asked us to win eight games in a row. We've got to win one game in a row, and we'll worry about the next one if we can get that done."

Holbrook said freshman right-hander Wil Crowe would be on the mound against the Camels, who beat Old Dominion in the 1 p.m. game Saturday to avoid elimination.

"I do have a good feeling about my team," Holbrook said. "This thing's a long way from over. And if I've got the type of kids on my team that I think I got, we'll come ready to go tomorrow."


Friday, May 30
Game 1 - Maryland 4, Old Dominion 3.
Game 2 - South Carolina 5, Campbell 2.

Saturday, May 31
Game 3 - Campbell 4, Old Dominion 1
Game 4 - Maryland 4, South Carolina 3.

Sunday, June 1
Game 5 - No. 4 Campbell vs. No. 1 South Carolina - 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Game 6 - Winner of Game 5 vs. No. 2 Maryland - 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Monday, June 2
Game 7 - If necessary - 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Box score

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