USC coach Chad Holbrook
ATHENS, Ga. - In the SEC, if you're careless, you're dead.
Wil Crowe got careless, and any hopes No. 9 South Carolina may have harbored for winning the SEC East or or overall title died Sunday in a 5-3 Georgia win thanks to a third-inning grand slam that put Georgia ahead to stay.
Already leading 1-0 after a leadoff double became a run on two groundouts in the second, Georgia loaded the bases in the fourth. After allowing a leadoff single, Crowe (L, 6-3) retired the next two batters before losing command and issuing two two-out walks to jam the bags.
Facing first baseman Daniel Nichols, who was hitting just .268 with one home run on the year, Crowe left a pitch over the plate and Nichols stuck it over the wall in straightaway center to the deepest part of the park for a 5-0 lead the Bulldogs (23-23-1, 8-15-1) wouldn't lose as UGA starter David Sosebee picked up his first win of the season throwing a career-high six innings. It was the first career grand slam for Nichols.
"He hit a pitch I left up," said Crowe, who hasn't won a game since March 30 and is winless in his last five starts. The home run was the first he's allowed this season. "The next time I'll need to make sure I get it down and throw a better pitch. I left it up, he got it up in the air and it got out of the park.
"I have to get over it. It sucks that it happened, and I have to come out next week and make sure it doesn't happen again. It's one loss. You can't make it another one."
After getting down 5-0 after three innings, USC's best chance to get back in the game came in sixth.
With the bottom of the order leading off, Jordan Gore and Gene Cone each slapped singles into right field to put runners at first and second with no outs. A walk to Marcus Mooney loaded the bases with no outs, bringing Joey Pankake to the plate. Pankake struck out looking, but Kyle Martin got a fielder's choice RBI and Grayson Greiner followed with an RBI single. Tanner English flew out to center to end the threat, and a late run in the top of the ninth on a Patrick Harrington double wasn't enough to prevent the Gamecocks from dropping their third road series of the year.
"Sometimes in baseball it comes down to one pitch, one opportunity," USC coach Chad Holbrook said. "They had the bases loaded with a decent hitter at the plate and he made the most of his opportunity.
"We had the bases loaded, our guys were at the plate and we didn't make the most of our opportunity. That's what it comes down to in baseball sometimes, and they capitalized."
Offensively, the Gamecocks managed just four hits through eight innings and six for the game. USC's one through six hitters combined to go 1-for-19 Sunday, with Grayson Greiner the only member of that group to get a hit. For the weekend, Pankake (2-11), Kyle Martin (1-11) and Mooney (1-11) combined to hit .121 (4-33). As a team, USC hit .152 in the two losses and .190 overall.
"Everybody makes a big to-do about our injury situation, and yeah, we've got some guys over there sitting on the bench we'd like to have in there, but the bottom line is our regular guys that are everyday players (Mooney, Pankake, Martin, Greiner and English) went 1-for-16 today," Holbrook said. "We didn't lose the game because of our guys who are playing in place of some of our injured guys.
"When we're scuffling a little bit, and obviously we're no offensive juggernaut, when we don't have a full tea out there I think it's safe to say that the top of our lineup has to produce, and today they didn't."
UP NEXT: USC plays Wofford at Carolina Stadium on Wednesday at 7 p.m.