Coming off a weekend series loss to SEC East rival Florida, South Carolina looked to get back on the winning track against Charleston Southern on Tuesday night.
Instead, they were flatter than the day old cup of soda sitting next to your bed.
Feeble at the plate again - USC has scored three or fewer runs in six of the past nine games - the injury depleted Gamecocks fell to the pesky Buccaneers, 4-1, as three CSU pitchers scattered six singles in front of an announced crowd of 7,415 on a chilly, wind-swept night at Carolina Stadium.
USC, which suffered its first non-conference loss of the season and the first since March 21, 2012, when Wofford prevailed in Columbia, fell to 28-8 overall with its fifth setback in the last seven games.
The Gamecocks face The Citadel Wednesday night in Charleston.
"Charleston Southern was clearly the better team tonight," USC head coach Chad Holbrook said. "They outcompeted us, outhustled, out-scrapped and about out-everythinged us tonight. We got our tails kicked."
Charleston Southern scored all the runs they would need in the first three innings, grabbing a 3-0 lead off USC starter Evan Beal and reliever Reed Scott before the top of the third inning ended.
A sacrifice fly in the top of the first and a pair of run-scoring singles in the third catapulted CSU into a lead it would never surrender.
Beal allowed five hits and three runs in 2.1 innings and fell to 0-1 on the season.
USC, listless at the plate for most of the night, couldn't muster a hit until the bottom of the fifth when Tanner English singled with two outs. Consecutive singles by Elliott Caldwell and Kyle Martin went for naught in the sixth when Grayson Greiner nearly grounded into a 5-4-3 triple play, but the junior from Blythewood just beat the relay throw.
Trailing 4-0, USC sought more ninth inning magic when with two outs Patrick Harrington walked (for the fourth time in the last two games), D.C. Arendas singled for his only hit of the night and Gore drove in his third run of the season by singling to center.
With the tying run at the plate, Charleston Southern manager Stuart Lake (a former USC assistant) brought in sidewinder Austin Weekley from the bullpen and he fanned English on four pitches, sending USC to their third straight loss.
Three days ago, USC was six outs away from a vital series win over Florida. Now they're staring at the longest losing streak of the season.
"This game, your year, the season can turn around like that," Holbrook said. "Midnight on Friday (after beating Florida in Game 1) or even after seven innings on Saturday, things (were going well) and then boom. You lose you edge and start feeling sorry for yourself.
"You have to fight, scratch and claw regardless of who we have in there and turn it around. There wasn't much fight in our dugout tonight. That is very disappointing."
Just one USC batter had more than a single hit as the Gamecocks collected seven or fewer hits for the sixth time in the last eight games.
"We just got beat by a better team tonight," Greiner said. "We didn't play very well at all. But baseball is a 56-game season and we have another one tomorrow. We can't dwell on tonight. We played poorly and they played very well and kind of embarrassed us.
"We can sit here and feel sorry for ourselves, but we still have 20 more games to play. So, sitting here feeling sorry for ourselves isn't the way to go about it. We're backed into a corner right now and we have to come out fighting."
USC played without four starters - Joey Pankake, Max Schrock, Connor Bright and Marcus Mooney. Holbrook, though, was in no mood to point to injuries as an excuse.
"That's no excuse," Holbrook said. "We have players capable of winning and capable of competing regardless of who we put out there. We have some good players in our dugout that need to play better regardless of who they are, whether they've been regulars or not. That's just an excuse. I'm not going to hear any of that."
USC trotted out an infield lineup with Martin at first, Jordan Gore at second, Arendas at short and Caldwell at third.
Caldwell, normally the starting left fielder, made his first start of the season at third, while Arendas started for the second time at shortstop.
Holbrook doesn't expect Pankake, Schrock or Bright will be healthy enough to return to action Wednesday against The Citadel at Joe Riley Park in Charleston.
"We'll go down there with the same team and if we have the same attitude, it will be the same result," Holbrook said. "I'm glad we have a game tomorrow so we have another opportunity. Joey is out, Marcus is out, Connor is out, Max is out. We'll go down there with what we have. We have a heckuva challenge tomorrow night. We're going on the road and playing a talented team."
Schrock took batting practice and fielded grounders before Tuesday's game, but "didn't feel like he could play" and was subsequently scratched from the lineup.
Led by Stratford High product Bobby Ison (3-for-5, two runs), Charleston Southern's top four hitters in the order were a combined 9-for-16 with four runs scored and three RBI, and only one strikeout.
Ison entered the game batting .397 and looked every bit like one of the top hitters in the Big South Conference.
"Ison was the best player on the field tonight, without a doubt," Holbrook said. "The kid has struck out three times in (161) at-bats. That tells you everything you need to know about that kid. He competes. I'd like to have him in our lineup."
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