KNOXVILLE—Saturday was the kind of game players like Josh Reagan live for.
With the Gamecocks clinging to a two-run lead in the 10th inning against Tennessee, winning was squarely on his shoulders.
“I was in the dugout waiting for us to score and we finally did. The atmosphere was intense, I was amped up,” Reagan said. “I thought to myself, ‘This is exactly what I live for. This is why I do what I do.’”
He started off shaky, giving up a single on a 0-2 count. Then he found himself in a jam: two runners on base with the best hitter in the SEC, Jeff Moberg, digging in at home plate.
The lefty bowed his neck and struck Moberg out, clinching a 6-4 win and the Gamecocks’ (13-5, 2-0 SEC) first SEC series of the year.
“That’s the one person I didn’t want to come up that inning,” head coach Chad Holbrook said. “I didn’t have a good feeling. But I did know Josh would compete and he would be at his best and we were going to go to his best pitches. He threw his best pitches in good spots in that at-bat.”
Jonah Bride gave Reagan and the Gamecocks the lead in the 10th inning after he worked a bases loaded walk with two outs. It incensed the Volunteer dugout as catcher Pete Derkay had words for home plate umpire Jeff Head.
Jacob Olson was hit by a pitch a batter later to give the Gamecocks a two-run advantage.
“The same ball earlier in the count he called a ball; I thought it was off,” Bride said of the walk. “It’s my opinion. I feel like I know the strike zone OK. I’m ready to go see it for myself. I was confident with it.”
Tennessee went up 2-0 on a RBI single and fielder’s choice in the third inning before TJ Hopkins and Bride homered in the fourth to give the Gamecocks a one-run lead heading to the fifth.
Bride, fresh off a two-double day yesterday, went 1-for-4 with his second homer of the year—a two run blast to left—and the game-clinching walk.
“Jonah is just a tough out. He understands the game, doesn’t try to do too much. He’ll get hit by a pitch; he’ll hit the ball the other way, he’ll hit behind runners, he knows how to play,” Holbrook said. “He got a good pitch to hit and drove it out of here. He’s had good at-bats the first two games. That’s helped us.”
The game would be sent to extras on a Matt Waldren pinch-hit blast in the bottom of the inning.
Wil Crowe, who made is first college start in his home state Saturday, was chased in the fifth inning. He finished giving up three runs on seven hits. He walked four while striking out five and got the no decision.
Bowers relieved him and gave up the home run to Waldren before being taken out for Reagan, who ultimately got the win, his second of the season.
“That’s all I’m worried about,” Crowe said. “My stats mean nothing to me. If every time I come out and we get a win as a team, that’s all that matters. That’s all I care about.”
Saturday’s win clinches the series for South Carolina and keeps it at the top of the SEC standings heading into the final day of the opening weekend.
It marks the fifth-straight series win to start conference play for the Gamecocks, and they are undefeated in SEC openers under Holbrook.
“We made our hits count and we were tough. We made pitches when we had to when people were on base,” Holbrook said. “We came up on this trip not necessarily at full strength but they battled and found a way to win the first two. Hopefully we can try to play well tomorrow.”
Play of the Game: Bride walked with the bases loaded to give South Carolina a 5-4 lead, which they would not give up the remainder of the day.
Top Performer: Bride. The junior went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run to give the Gamecocks an early lead and then walked to plate the winning run.
Up next: The Gamecocks finish the series Sunday at 2 p.m. No starter has been announced for South Carolina, but Will Neely (2-1, 3.44 ERA) is expected to take the bump for the Volunteers. Sunday’s game will be televised ESPNU.