Though less action-packed than its Game 1 predecessor, Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader was just as satisfying as No. 1 South Carolina defeated No. 21 Ole Miss 3-1 to earn the series win after losing the opening game Friday night.
Behind a strong outing from starter Wil Crowe (W, 4-0), the Gamecocks (18-1, 2-1) held Ole Miss to just one run on seven hits, with the bullpen tandem of Cody Mincey and Joel Seddon (S, 6) finishing off the Rebels (17-4, 1-2) with 3.2 scoreless innings to preserve the win.
"We beat a great team," Holbrook said of the Ole Miss team that brought a 16-2 record into Columbia and took the first game of the series with authority on a grand slam and stellar bullpen work. "I've been here for six years now, and there's a few teams that stand out that have come here to play. The Vanderbilt team from a couple of years ago and the LSU team that won the national championship in '09, that Ole Miss team we just played is how good I think they are.
"Our team beat a great team today, and I couldn't be more proud of them."
"Through thick and thin against a great opponent, they played their rear ends off. And that's all I can ask them to do."
Offensively, South Carolina scored first with a run in the bottom of the second when Kyle Martin led off the inning with a single to right. A looping drive to left center from Connor Bright was caught by the left fielder, but Martin, who thought the ball was going to drop, got caught at second and turned awkwardly to run back to first. The relay to the shortstop Errol Robinson was in plenty of time to nail Martin with ease, but Robinson's throw was high and sailed into the Gamecock dugout. Instead of two out and no one on, Martin took third on the two-base error and came home to score on a sacrifice fly from Grayson Greiner.
The Gamecocks pushed the go-ahead run across with a spectacular two-out bunt single from Tanner English in the bottom of the fifth. After a leadoff single from Bright and single to right from Greiner put runners at the corners with no outs, it appeared as if USC would blow a golden opportunity when Brison Celek popped up the first pitch he saw to the shortstop and Jordan Gore struck out. That's when English pushed a bunt up the first base line, absolutely flying up the basepath and diving head-first to beat the toss by the first baseman to the pitcher for the RBI and a 2-1 Gamecock lead.
"Tanner puts a lot of pressure on the defense when the ball is on the ground," Holbrook said. "The type of pitch that (Ole Miss starter Sam) Smith was throwing, his best pitch is Tanner's biggest weakness.
"So it's not a great matchup for Tanner. I didn't put on a sign, I just said, 'Hey, the bunt has to be in play with a runner on third. You have to put pressure on him.
"He got a pitch to bunt and it worked out for him."
English, who struck out twice in his other two appearances against Smith, said he felt comfortable with the bunt.
"I knew he was going to keep throwing me sliders," English said. "They were breaking out that way (toward first) over the plate, so I figured it would kind of help me get the ball over to that side of the field.
"Coach Holbrook said to trust it. I fouled the first one off and had a pretty good shot at getting the second one down. He threw the same pitch and it worked out."
Crowe was in command until the sixth, allowing just a single run in the fourth and scattering six hits. He ran into trouble in the top of the sixth when he got a grounder to short for the first out but then allowed a double to Austin Anderson, single to Will Allen and walked Sikes Orvis. That brought pitching coach Jerry Meyers to the mound a second time and Mincey to the hill to face a one-out, bases-loaded jam with USC clinging to a one-run lead. Facing designated hitter Brantley Bell, Mincey coaxed a grounder to Gore, who flipped to Mooney and he fired to first for an ending-inning double play.
USC added an insurance run in the eighth with a walk to Mooney, sac bunt from Elliott Caldwell and RBI-single from Joey Pankake made it 3-1.
"It was just our day," Holbrook said.