South Carolina's skid of five loses in its last six games continued on Saturday. With an unfortunate hint of deja vu lingering on from the series opener, poor defensive execution once again cost the Gamecocks in the ninth inning.
Mississippi State secured a series victory with a three runs its final at-bat, its first lead since the third inning. The Gamecocks spotted the Bulldogs an advantage on a failed rundown, a wild pitch and a pair of infield singles they weren't able to convert into outs.
"I thought that every play was there to be made to get us out of that inning and we didn't make it," South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook again. "In tight games in this league against really great completion that doesn't get you on the right side of the win column."
After its recent run of tough defats, South Carolina looked a little different when it took the field Saturday. The entire team wore its socks high and head coach Chad Holbrook decided to coach third base rather than assuming his usual post in the dugout. Holbrook said he looked to reduce the pressure on his players by mixing things up.
He shuffled his lineup as well, featuring sophomore right fielder Jacob Olson and freshman Carlos Cortes in the top two spots in the order. The pair combined for five hits and scored all four of South Carolina's runs.
With two down in the first inning, Mississippi State left fielder Cody Brown doubled to left center. Center fielder TJ Hopkins initiated an efficient relay to plate to beat Ryan Gridley attempting to score from first. The play was reviewed to see if catcher Hunter Taylor was obstructing the plate, but the original call was confirmed.
Luke Alexander lined a leadoff home run that skimmed over the left field wall to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 advantage in the top of the third.
Olson singled to start the bottom of the third. After working a 2-2 count, Cortes launched a two-run home run into Williams Street, with the ball nearly clipping a shuttle bus on its descent.
Crowe cruised through the middle innings, but Brown reached first to open the seventh inning when Chris Cullen couldn't corral a wide throw from LT Tolbert. Hunter Vansau scored Brown on RBI-double to tie the game.
The right-hander returned to pitch the ninth inning with his pitch count at the the century mark. Ryan Gridley hit a chopper to third baseman Jonah Bride and reached first when Bride wasn't able to make a clean play. The Bulldogs loaded the bases before Colie Bowers entered the game with no outs.
Catcher Josh Lovelady drove in the go-ahead run an RBI groundout and Bulldogs stretched their lead to 5-2.
"I think my pitch count was fine," Crowe said. "I'm glad they put me in a position were they trust me like that. I thought I made some good pitches and just the ball didn't fall our way."
In the bottom of the ninth inning Cortes provided the Gamecocks with an additional life on his second two-run home run of the day. The comeback didn't go any further.
"Right now our will is not strong enough to make something positive happen," Holbrook said. "It's disheartening. But we got good kids in our locker room. We've got good kids in our program and maybe they're hurting a little bit too much."
South Carolina will look to avoid a series sweep tomorrow with right-hander Adam Hill on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.