Gamecocks come up short in elimination game
Even for a program like South Carolina, not every season ends in Omaha.
The Gamecocks came up just short in Chapel Hill, falling 5-4 to North Carolina in the final game of the Super Regional series, ending a run of three consecutive trips to the College World Series. The Tar Heels edged the Gamecocks by a single run for the second time in three games to clinch the Super Regional in front of their home crowd.Gamecock center fielder Tanner English said that USC knew winning two elimination games in a row on the road would not be an easy task.
“I figured coming into today that it was going to be a knife fight,” English said. “They battled all weekend long and we battled, too.”
For the third time in the series, South Carolina scored first. USC got on the board in the second inning with an RBI single from Tanner English. North Carolina answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer from catcher Brian Holberton. Neither starting pitcher would make it out of the third inning, as both USC’s Jack Wynkoop and North Carolina’s Benton Moss were pulled after just 2.1 innings of work.
The Tar Heels gave the lead back in the top of the fifth, when a dropped fly ball allowed two Gamecocks to score. USC extended its lead to 4-2 in the sixth when Tanner English doubled down the left field line to drive home Max Schrock. Each of South Carolina’s four runs were scored with two outs.
North Carolina stormed back in the bottom of the sixth, as 1st-round draft pick Colin Moran ripped an RBI triple into right field to trim USC’s lead to 4-3. A throwing error by Gamecock first baseman Kyle Martin and two batters later allowed Moran to score from third, tying the game at 4-4. Two consecutive walks loaded the bases for UNC and USC brought in closer Tyler Webb to replace Adam Westmoreland. Webb then issued a bases-loaded walk to North Carolina left fielder Park Jordan, giving the Tar Heels a 5-4 lead that they would not relinquish.
Once again, the Gamecocks turned in a poor defensive effort. USC committed three errors in the game, bringing their total for the series to seven. Coming into Chapel Hill, South Carolina had made 60 errors in 60 games. USC head coach Chad Holbrook noted that the defensive lapses came at the worst time for the Gamecocks.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened at this time of the year,” Holbrook said of South Carolina’s defensive miscues. “In postseason play, when you’re playing a great time, every little mistake is magnified.”
Much like the opening game of the series, South Carolina was unable to come up with the timely hits for most of the contest. The Gamecocks stranded 10 runners on the day and left 28 men on base in three games against the Tar Heels. North Carolina only left six runners on base in the game.
“[North Carolina] put the ball in play and put the pressure on us,” Holbrook said. “They faced Wynkoop, Westmoreland and Webb today and didn’t have a strikeout.”
The Gamecocks ended the season with a 43-20 record, the same number of losses that the 2012 Gamecocks suffered during their national runner-up campaign. Despite falling short of a school record fourth consecutive trip to Omaha, Holbrook said that he was proud of the way his team handled adversity throughout the season.
“They kept their head above water and competed every single day,” he said. “We didn’t always play well, but we always played hard. They represented this jersey and all the players that played before them and all the coaches that coached before them the right way. At the end of the day, that’s all I can ask for.”