Bulldogs blast Gamecocks 12-0 at SEC tournament

Mississippi State 10-run-rules USC in tourney opener

Special to The StateMay 22, 2014 

— South Carolina’s bid to strengthen its case to be a national seed for the NCAA Tournament didn’t get off to a good start Wednesday night.

Its quest to win the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament didn’t fare very well, either.

Mississippi State converted on early scoring opportunities, the 15th-ranked Gamecocks didn’t and that set up to a seven-inning 12-0 victory for the Bulldogs in USC’s first game of the SEC tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The game was halted after seven innings because of the 10-rule.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had my tail kicked like that,” said USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “They obviously played a great game and we didn’t.”

As a result, USC will face SEC regular-season champion Florida at approximately 1:30 p.m. Thursday in an elimination game (on SportSouth). Holbrook said he expects Jack Wynkoop (7-4, 2.80) to be USC’s pitcher.

The Gamecocks (42-15), believed to contending with several teams for one of the eight national seeds to the NCAA Tournament, were looking to improve their status here. Mississippi and Vanderbilt, two other national seed hopefuls, lost earlier Wednesday and USC wanted to distance itself from the pack.

Instead, the Gamecocks were held to a season-low two hits and suffered their worst-ever SEC tournament loss.

“We didn’t look very good,” said USC catcher Grayson Greiner, who had a double but was later thrown out trying to advance on a grounder to shortstop. “We obviously know this isn’t how we play baseball. For a while there we looked like the Bad News Bears a little bit. We’ve got to flush it and come back (Thursday).”

“I’m at a little bit of a loss for words,” Holbrook said. “I didn’t expect that. I thought we were ready to play. We had a bounce in our step, but we didn’t get off to a good start and it snowballed on us.”

If there’s anything that’s a saving grace, it’s just one game,” Holbrook said. “We get a chance to play to play Florida tomorrow and that’s a great opportunity.”

Gamecocks ace Jordan Montgomery (7-5) struggled with his control and left after 3 2/3 innings.

The Bulldogs (37-20) struck in the second inning when Wes Rea drew a leadoff walk on a checked swing. Rea was sacrificed to second, went to third on Reid Humphreys’ single to left and scored on Derrick Armstrong’s bouncer over Joey Pankake’s head at third base.

USC had a promising start to its second when Greiner doubled down the left-field line. But he tried to move to third on Joey Pankake’s grounder to short and was tagged out. DC Arendas added a single, but the next two batters were retired.

The Bulldogs continued the pressure in the third. C.T. Bradford hit a grounder to Kyle Martin behind first base and outran Montgomery to the bag. Bradford moved up on walks to Brett Pirtle and Gavin Collins. Rea hit into a fielder’s choice at second to score one run and Demarcus Henderson singled in another.

Gene Cone and Marcus Mooney opened the USC third with walks and the Bulldogs replaced starter Trevor Fitts with left-hander Jacob Lindgren (6-1). After Max Schrock bunted the runners over, Lindgren struck out Martin and Greiner to end the inning.

Lindgren retired all 12 batters he faced, striking out six.

Matthew Britton drew a one-out walk in the fourth and went to second on a groundout. Bradford’s single to right drive Britton home and Montgomery from the game in favor of Taylor Widener.

Widener retired the first seven batters he faced, but gave up three runs in the Bulldogs’ eight-run seventh to put the 10-run rule in play.

“The first three innings kind of set the tone for us,” Holbrook said. “Jordan couldn’t get over and cover first base and we made a base-running mistake out there. Grayson ... I don’t know what he was doing out there with the ball in front of him. On top of that, Joey couldn’t hit behind him.”

Connor Bright returned to the Gamecocks lineup after missing 13 games with a hyper extended elbow. He was 0-for 2.

Box score: USC-Mississippi State

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