'One pitch and one opportunity': Georgia rides grand slam to series win

Special to The StateMay 4, 2014 

Starting pitcher Wil Crowe

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

— No. 9 South Carolina watched its chances of clinching a weekend series with Georgia fly over the center field wall.

Giving up a grand slam in the bottom of the third was too much for the Gamecocks (35-13, 13-11 SEC) to overcome as they fell to the Bulldogs 5-3 on Sunday.

“Sometimes in baseball, it comes down to one pitch and one opportunity,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “They had the bases loaded with a good hitter at the plate, and he made the most of the opportunity.”

It appeared a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the third might end the day early USC starting pitcher Wil Crowe’s – maybe it should have.

Following a meeting on the mound among the Gamecocks’ defense, Georgia first baseman Daniel Nichols knocked a grand slam over the center field wall. The Bulldogs (23-23-1, 9-14-1) took a 5-0 lead with Nichols’ two-out grand slam, the first of his career.

Crowe already is trying to delete the memory.

“I’m not really worried about all that stuff,” Crowe said. “(I’m) just trying to come out here and get a win. I left one up, and he got ahold of it.”

Crowe forced a fly ball to left for the third out of the inning – his final pitch of the game. The freshman pitched three innings, allowed five runs (all earned) and gave up four hits.

“He just made one mistake today that cost us the game, kind of,” Grayson Greiner said. “They got the big hit and we didn’t.”

Crowe (6-3) came away with the loss on Sunday as South Carolina failed to turn the momentum from Saturday’s 5-2 win into a series victory. It was another disappointing outing for Crowe, whose last win came March 30 over Tennessee.

“I just think he’s making mistakes over the middle of the plate. His stuff’s not the same,” Holbrook said. “He’s scuffling right now, but we’ll get it right.”

Georgia starting pitcher David Sosebee was on cruise control until the top of the sixth inning, when the Gamecocks put runners on first and second base with no outs. The redshirt sophomore remained in the game, but walked the following batter, Marcus Mooney, to load the bases for Joey Pankake.

Pankake was rung up on a called strike three to the lower inside corner.

Sosebee almost escaped the inning but allowed Jordan Gore to score on a fielder’s choice to second base. Georgia nearly secured the double play, but Kyle Martin beat Nelson Ward’s throw to first.

Greiner singled on the following at bat to advance Martin to second. Martin quickly advanced to third following an inaccurate throw to first made by Georgia third baseman Hunter Cole following his diving stop. The miscue allowed Gene Cone to score, which brought the Gamecocks within three runs. South Carolina trailed 5-2 midway through the sixth.

The sixth inning was Sosebee’s last on the mound. The Cleveland, Ga. native tossed a career-high six innings, allowed two earned runs and four hits, and struck out four of the 23 batters he faced in the win.

Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, two runs hardly made a dent in Georgia’s lead.

“We had the bases loaded and our guys at the plate, and we didn’t make the most of the opportunity,” Holbrook said. “That’s what it comes down to in baseball sometimes, and they (Georgia) capitalized.”

Box score: USC-Georgia, Game 3

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