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Gamecocks drop another series opener

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASEBALL

COLUMBIA, MO.—Coming into this weekend’s series, the Gamecocks knew what they were getting in Missouri offensively with Mark Kingston calling them one of the fastest teams in the country.

But Friday they weren’t able to control it with the Tigers taking advantage of South Carolina’s miscues in a 5-2 win as the Gamecocks drop their seventh straight SEC series opener.

Reid Morgan || Photo by Chris Gillespie
Reid Morgan || Photo by Chris Gillespie

“We need to hold them better on the bases,” Kingston said. “We need to do a better job not panicking if they break early. It’s something we obviously work on but it’s something we need to do better.”

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With the game deadlocked at two for the majority of the middle innings, Morgan was the first pitcher to blink, giving up the game-winning run in the seventh inning.

It was a weirdly uncharacteristic outing for Morgan (3-4, 3.63 ERA), who didn't give up much hard contact but gave up three runs—one on a bloop single, another on a balk and the third on that wild pitch—scattering eight hits over six innings.

It's his seventh quality start in 11 appearances this season. He struck out six to just one walk but picked up his fourth straight losing decision Friday night. The Tigers also stole five bases Friday.

“It’s difficult, obviously, giving up two runs and then that one run on,” he said. “It’s difficult to walk away from but I battled my ass off, worked at it and didn’t come out on top. It’s just part of the game.”

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The Gamecocks (24-18, 5-14 SEC) jumped out to a quick lead in the third inning, using three two-out hits to plate two runs, capped by an Andrew Eyster double down the left field line.

It was short-lived, though, with Missouri getting both runs back in the bottom of the inning.

Missouri took the lead in the seventh after a leadoff double, an infield single where Morgan and Jacob Olson collided while simultaneously trying to field a bunt, and a wild pitch.

Offensively the Gamecocks had a hard time chasing starter Jacob Cantleberry despite putting pressure on the Tigers all night but couldn’t produce enough runs.

“We actually had a better night than two runs on seven hits tonight. We had a lot of hard hit balls tonight, but it was dead air and they were caught,” Kingston said. “I thought overall our offensive approach was pretty good tonight. Not as good as theirs.”

Click for Friday's box score

Before Missouri retired six straight to end the game, South Carolina put a runner on seven straight innings to start the game, including multiple runners three times.

They couldn’t get the big hit for the majority of the night, stranding nine and going 3-for-14 with runners on base, 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

“We just have to try and tone it down, I think. Tonight I thought we swung the bat well even with guys on,” Eyster said. “But as a team collectively we have to tone it down and try to get base hits. There are certain times you can swing for a home run or extra base hit and I think as a team it’s good to have that but we need to go station-to-station baseball. I think it’ll help us bring in more runs.”

With Alabama winning, the Gamecocks are now tied with the Crimson Tide but since the Gamecocks lost that series, it puts South Carolina on the outside looking in for the conference tournament right now.

The Gamecocks dropped their seventh-straight SEC series opener and need to win the next two games this weekend to avoid losing their first seven conference series to start league play.

“You just have to stay positive,” Morgan said. “You have to keep working the same and have the same mentality. It’s Friday night in the SEC. You have to come out and be a dog; you make one bad pitch and it can all go downhill from there.”

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Player of the game: Andrew Eyster finished the game with two hits in three at-bats, driving in two runs and walking once.

Key moment: When going to field a bunt, Reid Morgan and Jacob Olson collied, allowing a runner to reach, which ultimately led to the game-winning run coming across.

Up next: South Carolina tries to even the series Saturday night with first pitch from Taylor Stadium scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network Plus. Cam Tringali (2-1, 3.33 ERA) is scheduled to start.