COLUMBIA, S.C. — Top-ranked South Carolinas undefeated start to the start came down to one swing of the bat Friday night. Only this one didnt go the Gamecocks way.
Mississippi outfielder Auston Bousfield drilled a two-out grand slam over Carolina Stadiums left-field fence in the sixth inning off USC left-hander Jordan Montgomery to provide the margin of victory in a 6-4 win. After rolling through 16 non-conference games, the Gamecocks dropped their SEC opener to the No. 21 Rebels.
Montgomery (3-1) was clinging to a two-run lead in the sixth inning when he gave up a double, hit a batter with one out and then walked a freshman pinch-hitter with two outs to set the table for Bousfield, who had three hits to raise his batting average to .425.
When Montgomery went to a 2-0 count on Bousfield, he was ready.
Most of the game, they were trying to finish me off inside with fastballs, and he was making good pitches all night, Bousfield said. He just threw a fastball in, and I got a good swing on it and hit it out.
Montgomery, who gave up gave up six runs on six hits including a pair of homers three walks and one hit batsman while throwing 118 pitches, knew USC coach Chad Holbrook had faith in him to escape the jam.
Coach trusts me. I had been getting outs plenty fine, Montgomery said. I was just trying to get one more out and I missed my spots.
Holbrook felt that Montgomery still had great life on his pitches, although he contemplated bringing in reliever Cody Mincey. He wasnt worried about Montgomery being out of gas because his velocity remained strong, although he was more upset about the two-out walk to keep the inning alive than the home run.
I like Jordan. Hes our guy. He just got behind, Holbrook said. Id leave him back out there in that situation again. Hes gotten a lot of big outs in those situations.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco liked his how team overcame a 4-1 deficit against the Gamecocks (16-1, 0-1 SEC).
We showed some toughness down three runs on the road and just hung in the game long enough to get a big hit, Bianco said. We have some older guys who have been in the league like them, and sometimes it just comes down to who makes the pitch or who gets the big hit. Thats what happened tonight.
The Rebels (17-2, 1-0) also showed that things are always more difficult in SEC games. Bousfield liked how his team bounced back against the nations No. 1 club.
Theyre a great team. Its a big win for us, Bousfield said. We really toughed it out towards the end. We put some at-bats together when we needed them.
Austin Anderson hit a solo home run off Montgomery in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 4-2. And it didnt help that the Gamecocks stranded 11 runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the first and second innings.
We just couldnt get that big hit when we needed it, Holbrook said. I didnt feel good that four runs were going to hold up, and ultimately, I was right. Weve got to pick ourselves back up off the mat. Weve got 18 innings (Saturday), and well find out a lot about our team by the way we respond.
The teams traded single runs in the first inning. South Carolina got the run right back with Max Schrocks solo homer to right field in the bottom half. Schrock, who has three home runs on the season, was playing after missing the previous four games with an ankle sprain.
Schrock, who started at designated hitter because he didnt have enough mobility to play second base, finished with four hits. He also was in the middle of a three-run outburst in the fourth inning to give USC a 4-1 lead with his infield RBI single.
If hes able to swing, were going to put him in there, Holbrook said. Hopefully, he can DH again (Saturday). Hes a tough nut. You love going into battle with kids like that.
Ole Miss starter Chris Ellis (3-0) wasnt sharp over his 5 1/3 innings, as he allowed his first earned runs of the season, but he benefited from the Bousfield blast to get the win. Josh Laxer picked up his first save by getting the final two outs.
The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday at 3 p.m. due to expected rain Sunday.
Were going to have to come out with the right energy and enthusiasm and play a good brand of baseball or we wont win a game (Saturday), Holbrook said. Theyre good. Theyre really good. Its a great challenge. Thats what you get in this league game-in and game-out.
USC will start left-hander Jack Wynkoop (4-0) and right-hander Wil Crowe (3-0) against Ole Miss left-hander Christian Trent (2-0) and right-hander Sam Smith (3-0).