HOOVER, Ala. — South Carolinas bid to strengthen its case to be a national seed for the NCAA Tournament didnt get off to a good start Wednesday night.
Its quest to win the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament didnt fare very well, either.
Mississippi State converted on early scoring opportunities, the 15th-ranked Gamecocks didnt and that set up to a seven-inning 12-0 victory for the Bulldogs in USCs first game of the SEC tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The game was halted after seven innings because of the 10-rule.
Its been a long time since Ive had my tail kicked like that, said USC coach Chad Holbrook said. They obviously played a great game and we didnt.
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 USCs 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 didnt 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 isnt how we play baseball. For a while there we looked like the Bad News Bears a little bit. Weve got to flush it and come back (Thursday).
Im at a little bit of a loss for words, Holbrook said. I didnt expect that. I thought we were ready to play. We had a bounce in our step, but we didnt get off to a good start and it snowballed on us.
If theres anything thats a saving grace, its just one game, Holbrook said. We get a chance to play to play Florida tomorrow and thats 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 Armstrongs bouncer over Joey Pankakes 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 Pankakes 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 fielders 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. Bradfords 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 couldnt get over and cover first base and we made a base-running mistake out there. Grayson ... I dont know what he was doing out there with the ball in front of him. On top of that, Joey couldnt hit behind him.
Connor Bright returned to the Gamecocks lineup after missing 13 games with a hyper extended elbow. He was 0-for 2.