Hoover and out: Gators send Gamecocks home 7-2

Special to The StateMay 22, 2014 

— There are no guarantees of anything in college baseball, but South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook certainly didn’t anticipate the performance he saw from the Gamecocks (42-16) in the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.

Thursday’s 7-2 loss to regular-season champion Florida completed an 0-2 stay in central Alabama. Since winning the tournament in 2004, the Gamecocks have gone 8-20 here and won more than one game just once.

“We had two days of baseball here and we didn’t play very well,” Holbrook said. “We didn’t play up to our capabilities. The result was we got what we deserved.”

“Up until this point I’ve been extremely proud of my team,” Holbrook said. “We’ve handled adversity; we’ve fought; we’ve scratched and clawed and found a way to go 42-14.

“But, these last two days they didn’t do much to make me proud, or maybe I didn’t have them prepared,” Holbrook said. “We’ll go back to Columbia and get prepared for next week.”

In what is becoming a yearly occurrence, Holbrook said the team will hold two-a-day workouts in Columbia “to try to fix some of these miscues.”

Most national projections of the 64-team field have USC as a regional host, but the cameo in Hoover – they lost to Mississippi State 12-0 Wednesday night – did nothing to bolster the Gamecocks’ prospects of being named one of eight national seeds.

“You never know,” Holbrook said. “Going into the tournament, I certainly felt we had (done enough for a national seed). Sometimes the (selection) committee takes a long look at what you do in the conference tournament. Sometimes it looks like they ignore it.”

The Gamecocks had issues in many facets of the game the last two days, including starting pitching, relief pitching, defense, hitting and base running.

“I felt like we were prepared,” said center fielder Tanner English, who had two of USC’s five hits against Florida. “We’d practiced our butts off and did everything we needed to do. But when things didn’t go our way it didn’t light a fire under our butts like it should have.”

USC starter Jack Wynkoop (7-5) had a 2-0 lead and was cruising along until the wheels came off out with two outs in the bottom of the third. Florida’s Casey Turgeon singled deep into the hole at second base. DC Arendas kept the ball on the infield, but couldn’t get up to make a throw.

Richie Martin bunted the ball right at Wynkoop, who couldn’t make a play and was charged with an error.

“I just botched it,” Wynkoop said. “It was probably the most routine bunt I’ve had all year and I didn’t make the play.”

Wynkoop hit Harrison Bader to load the bases and Taylor Gushue singled to score two runs. Braden Mattsen bunted down the third-base line. Wynkoop was unable to flip the ball home in time for a play, giving Florida a 3-2 lead and ending Wynkoop’s day.

Cody Mincey came into get the final out of the third, but dug his own hole by walking the first two batters of the fourth. The Gamecocks brought in closer Joel Seddon, who got the first batter he faced before allowing two run-scoring singles.

Holbrook had no qualms about bringing his closer in so early in the game.

“Cody couldn’t throw strikes, and Joel’s our best guy,” he said. “It was win or go home. The game was in doubt and we were trying to keep it close with our best guy.”

Seddon pitched the final five innings, allowing two runs.

“Joel’s got starter stuff,” Holbrook said. “He’s got four pitches that he can throw in there. He’s in great shape and he hadn’t thrown in a while. If we were going to lose, we were going to do it with our best guys.”

USC’s first run was produced by doubles by Joey Pankake and English in the second inning. Kyle Martin homered in the third for the Gamecocks’ other run.

Gene Cone had a one-out triple in the USC eighth, but he was thrown out trying to score on Patrick Harrington’s fly ball to medium center to end the inning.

Holbrook’s not ready to pack up the equipment yet: “I believe in our team; I believe in my guys,” he said. “We’ve got seven or eight days to get healthy. We’ve lost two games here before and won the national championship. Our guys know that. What we work for; what we pride ourselves in, is in front of us; it’s not behind us.”

Holbrook said he rested injured ailing regulars Max Schrock and Connor Bright on Thursday to try to help them get healthy for NCAA play. Both had played Wednesday.

The 16 regional hosts sites are announced Sunday night. The full bracket and top seeds are released on noon Monday during a selection show on ESPNU.

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