USC stumbles against the Citadel, 10-8

Posted by NEIL WHITE on April 17, 2014 

FILE PHOTO: South Carolina Gamecocks shortstop Marcus Mooney (8) makes a diving attempt on a line drive.

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com

— The injury-plagued South Carolina baseball team can’t stop the bleeding.

The Citadel pounded out 12 hits to roll to a 10-8 victory Wednesday night before a sellout crowd of 6,500 at Riley Park to hand the No. 11 Gamecocks their fourth consecutive loss and sixth loss in the past eight games.

With three starters not playing because of injuries, the Gamecocks (28-9) scratched out seven hits but managed eight runs thanks to four Bulldog errors and 10 walks issued by The Citadel’s pitchers.

Seven USC pitchers, however, handed out eight walks of their own to help fuel a Citadel offense that swung the bats well, as Mason Davis led the attack with three hits, including his first homer of the season.

“They swung the bat very well, and we didn’t make enough plays to win,” said USC shortstop DC Arendas, who hit a solo home run in the second inning and walked three times. “We pieced together some good at-bats and had some innings where we scored some runs, but we came up short at the end.”

Holbrook looked at his team’s walks, three errors, and a base-running blunder by Kyle Martin during an eighth-inning rally, and he recognized why the Gamecocks came up short. Third baseman Joey Pankake, shortstop Marcus Mooney and right-fielder Connor Bright were not in the starting lineup because of injuries.

“We’ve just got to play better. When you’re short-handed, and you don’t have some of your guys, you’ve got to play really crisp, clean baseball. No free 90s (walks), play good defense, no base-running mistakes, all those things, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Holbrook said. “They knocked us around a little bit on the mound. The way they swung the bat, they certainly deserved to win.”

Martin lashed a two-run double in the fifth inning, and Brison Celek added a solo homer in the sixth, but it wasn’t enough. The Citadel’s Tyler Griffin and Drew DeKergeland combined for four hits and five RBIs.

USC right-hander Matthew Vogel (0-1) took the loss in the first start of his career after not getting out of the third inning. The Citadel right-hander Austin Livingston (2-4), who entered the game with an 8.39 ERA, pitched five innings to collect the win. Skylar Hunter pitched the ninth for his seventh save.

“I’m certainly very concerned. We’re 28-9, and it isn’t the end of the world, but I’d be the first to say that I think some of our guys’ confidence is shaken a little bit,” Holbrook said. “I don’t know if I have the answer. All I know is you’ve got to play well.”

After consecutive losses in SEC series, including the final two games of the Florida series, as well as midweek losses to Charleston Southern and The Citadel, the Gamecocks, who travel to Auburn this weekend, understand they must find a way to get things turned around quickly.

“I don’t think you can allow it to snowball,” Arendas said. “That would be a sign of mental weakness. Our coaching staff always talks about mental toughness. Guys who are getting opportunities just have to step up and play better. We all know that.”

Arendas said the players can’t use the injuries as a crutch. Holbrook couldn’t agree more. The coach was happy with his team’s effort, but believes the players must take charge of their destiny to get out of this rut.

“You’ve got to compete and you’ve got to play better than your opponent,” Holbrook said. “You’ve got to get a big hit when you have an opportunity, make a big play and make a big pitch. Right now, we’re not finding a way to do that. We need that feel-good feeling again.”

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