Gamecocks rocked in series opener
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASEBALL
STARKVILLE, MISS.—Two weeks after giving up a season-high 22 runs to Vanderbilt, Thursday's series opener to Mississippi State didn't get much better.
The Gamecocks gave up season highs in runs (24) and hits (22) as they dropped the opener at Dudy Noble Field 24-7 and watched as the margin of error to get into the SEC Tournament shrink to razor thin.
“As bad as this was, as ugly as it is, it still only counts as one against you. You don’t get extra credit for how many runs they score," Mark Kingston said. "If things don’t go your way, you come out ready to go tomorrow.”
The team's SEC Tournament chances took another hit with the loss, with the Gamecocks needing to win just one of the two final regular season games mixed with two more Alabama losses and two Kentucky losses over the next two days.
If that happens, and the Gamecocks (27-26, 7-21 SEC) win at least one of their next two games, they'll get into the tournament.
“I don’t think it’ll mean a whole lot, especially with it being the last series of the year. We need to get at least one, if not two more wins," Andrew Eyster said. "I don’t think it’ll affect us.”
It's the worst loss since losing 19-1 against Kentucky in 2017 and the first time they've given up 20 or more runs twice in a season since 1997.
Cam Tringali (2-4, 4.81 ERA) motored through his first two frames, striking out two over and not allowing a run in his first six outs.
That's when the trouble hit, where he'd load the bases with no outs and walk in two runs to tie the game before giving up the go-ahead run on a double play and another on a fielding error, the second of a four-run third for Mississippi State.
“I was feeling good, still felt good going into the inning. I just got a little excited trying to work out of a big situation," Tringali said. "I got a little too big for myself, lost control in big spots. With the bases loaded, you can’t defend a walk in that situation. You can defend ground balls but you can’t defend two walks with the bases loaded. I think I was trying to do a little too much.”
Noah Campbell, battling a hip flexor injury entering the day, tried to play hampered but made two errors in the third inning and was taken out of the game. His status the rest of the weekend is still unknown.
“He just didn’t look like he was able to make plays out there with the hip flexor," Kingston said. "He gave it his best shot but two errors in the first couple of innings didn’t look like himself out there.”
He'd give up five more in the fourth, finishing his outing giving up a career-high nine runs in four innings, walking three and hitting a batter.
Things didn't get better after he left the game with Mississippi State getting seven runs in the fifth before recording an out. Daniel Lloyd gave up a run and loaded the bases before Cole Ganopulos came in and gave up two run-scoring hits, including a grand slam to Dustin Skeleton.
With the Gamecocks needing to save their bullpen for the rest of the weekend, Ganopulos finished out the game tying a career-high with four innings pitched, giving up 11 runs (10 earned) on 12 hits and striking out three.
The Gamecocks looked to be in a really good position after three-and-a-half innings with Tringali pitching well and the offense spotting him two runs early after Andrew Eyster doubled home TJ Hopkins twice over the first three innings.
They'd run starter Ethan Small's pitch count up to around 63 through three innings, but could only muster five runs the rest of the way with four of those coming in the ninth inning.
“I think we were seeing the ball well with him," Eyster said. "We had his pitch count up, and we figured we could get to that bullpen. Things just got out of hand.”
Key moment: After a leadoff error and an infield hit, Tringali went up two strikes on Jake Mangum before the all-time SEC hits leader fouled off every pitch Tringali threw before a breaking ball ran in and hit him to load the bases. Things spiraled after that with Tringali walking the next two batters to tie the game before surrendering the lead.
“I think the count was still 0-2 ten pitches later," Tringali said. "There were some pitches that out of the hand you know he’s not going to touch but he did. That’s the reason he’s the best hitter in NCAA history. He knows what he’s doing and battling with two strikes.”
Up next: The Gamecocks try to even the series and get a much-needed win Friday night in game two. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network Plus with Reid Morgan (4-5, 3.79 ERA) on the mound.
“We know he’s going to limit the amount of runs they’ll get," Eyster said. "As long as we do what we’ve been doing offensive we can score more than them.”