Gamecocks losing streak hits seven games
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASEBALL
South Carolina’s rough stretch got a little rougher Wednesday night.
The Gamecocks, in desperate need of a win to stop a sizable losing skid, faltered late in a 7-4 loss to Furman at Founders Park for their seventh straight loss and eighth over their last 10 games.
They’re now .500 on the season for the first time since Feb. 16 and are limping into the final stretch of games, fighting for a conference tournament spot with an incredibly depleted pitching staff.
“I’m going to learn who’s going to continue to fight,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “That’s the number one thing I’m going to watch; I’m going to see who’s going to give into it and who’s going to keep playing hard and doing the right things.”
The Gamecocks (24-24, 5-19 SEC) fell behind in the middle innings but fought back to tie the game at four entering the ninth inning after a TJ Hopkins solo shot in the sixth followed by an Andrew Eyster RBI single with one out in the eighth.
After pitching around a one-out walk in the eighth, Dylan Harley hit trouble to start the inning and ultimately left after recording just one out in the ninth.
He’d put the go-ahead run on to lead off the inning, allowing a sinking liner to right field before hitting the next batter to put the winning run in scoring position.
The freshman lefty departed after a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk to load the bases.
“He had the same stuff he had the inning before but threw an easy slider to hit there with two strikes and the guy stuck his bat out and started a rally. He hit the next guy and we had to get him out of there. It was as simple as that.”
Needing a double play to keep the tie game intact heading to the bottom of the inning, they brought in Gage Hinson to try and get a ground ball and get out of the jam.
That didn’t happen with Hinson giving up a two-run single to the first batter he faced before allowing another two-out RBI single before the bleeding stopped
Harley (2-4, 9.50 ERA) is tagged with the loss.
“You bring in a sinker ball, submarine guy to do that,” Kingston said about getting a double play. “He got his ground ball, it just happened to be up the middle. It’s very unlucky on our part, good execution on theirs.”
There was a chance in the ninth with Brady Allen and Chris Cullen walking to open the ninth before two fly outs and a groundout ended the threat.
Now the Gamecocks come into this weekend’s series with Kentucky in serious need of a series victory, something that’s eluded them so far this year, to bolster their chances of getting into the SEC Tournament.
They’ll have to do it with a pitching staff so decimated with injuries that the Gamecocks are calling on position players to pitch; Kingston said Allen and Josiah Sightler were on call to pitch tonight if needed.
In a tough season like this one, it could be hard for players to stay mentally engaged, but Kingston said there’s no chance his team will do that the final seven games of the year.
“We have one day of practice and then we’re playing again. We have a noon practice tomorrow because we’re playing at noon on Saturday and Sunday,” Kingston said. “There’s no option to come not ready to practice and there’s no option to not come ready to play. That’s what you do.”
Player of the game: Andrew Eyster had another multi-hit game, his fourth straight game with at least two hits, and drove in half of the Gamecocks' runs Tuesday night.
Key moment: Brady Allen and Chris Cullen both walked to lead off the ninth but couldn't advance past that.
Up next: South Carolina starts a pivotal home series against Kentucky Friday with both teams scrapping to get into the SEC Tournament. Game one starts at 7 p.m. Friday night on the SEC Network.