The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: No. 7 Tennessee sweeps South Carolina in critical SEC opener

<p>FILE— Junior pitcher Noah Hall throws a pitch in the second inning on March 5, 2022. The Gamecocks fell 10-2 in the second game of the series against Clemson.&nbsp;</p>
FILE— Junior pitcher Noah Hall throws a pitch in the second inning on March 5, 2022. The Gamecocks fell 10-2 in the second game of the series against Clemson. 

After playing well against No. 1 Texas, the South Carolina baseball team was swept by No. 7 Tennessee in its opening SEC series in Knoxville. 

It was a tough weekend all-around as the Volunteers scored 23 total runs off Gamecock pitching. Offensively, the Gamecocks struggled equally as much, striking out a total of 30 times against Tennessee pitching. 


The Gamecocks quickly fell behind and could never recover against the Volunteers, losing 8-3 on Friday night.

Offensively, South Carolina didn't have any answers for freshman right-handed pitcher Chase Burns, who turned in 6.2 innings of one-run ball. He finished with nine strikeouts and surrendered only two hits. 

The Gamecocks picked up their first run of the night in the top of the fifth when senior first baseman Josiah Sightler drove in junior catcher Colin Burgess with an RBI groundout. 

Freshman shortstop Michael Braswell’s 16-game hitting streak came to an end, as he struck out three times. 

Against Volunteer pitching, the Gamecocks struck out 14 times and left five runners on-base. 

After getting knocked around early, junior right-hander Noah Hall settled in and gave the team a lengthy outing. In 5.2 innings, Hall gave up four runs on eight hits and struck out six batters. 

"It took me a while to get settled in just cause of the environment. I ain't never pitched in front of this many people, but after the two innings, started to feel it, tried to get into a rhythm, try to stay to a rhythm, try to keep tempo and just execute pitches," Hall said. 

With only 88 pitches heading into the sixth, head coach Mark Kingston’s decision to bring Hall back out didn't pay off, as he gave up a solo home run to further extend Tennessee’s lead. 

Following the loss, Kingston said the team is in a position where they need to "fill innings right now."

"We're in a position now where we have to make small picture decisions and big picture decisions, and we just needed (Hall) to eat up innings," Kingston said. "Some of the decisions we're making, a lot of times it's based on strategy to win the game, but sometimes it's how to fill innings as well."


South Carolina let Tennessee take a first inning lead for the second straight game in its 5-2 loss to the Volunteers.

The Gamecocks' offense as a whole looked out of sync for the second straight game, only managing five hits while striking out 12 times and going 0-for-11 with runners on-base.

Braswell struggled to get it done at the plate again, adding another two strikeouts to his series count of five while going hitless. 

Senior third baseman Kevin Madden played well, going 2-for-4 at the plate with a home run. Fifth-year outfielder Brandt Belk had the only other notable performance, hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning. 

Sophomore right-hander Will Sanders got off to a rough start on the mound, giving up two runs on three hits in the first inning alone. Sanders was unable to salvage his outing, finishing with four strikeouts and five earned runs in his 4.2 innings of work. 

Sanders finished with 104 pitches before being relieved in the fifth inning. Redshirt freshman right-hander Cade Austin pitched lights-out as the sole reliever, holding Tennessee both scoreless and hitless while striking out five batters.

After the game Kingston acknowledged the plate vision struggles of the offense. 

"There's no factory we can go to tonight," Kingston said. "You just need to keep grinding it out. That's what baseball's all about. Every day's a new day, and you're gonna face good pitching, you just need to get used to it."


The Gamecocks were unable to take the final game of the series on Sunday, as they were swept after a 10-0 loss to Tennessee.

Freshman left-hander Matthew Becker started on the bump and pitched well, giving up two runs and striking out seven batters in five innings. In his last two starts, both against top-10 teams, he has only allowed three hits and three runs while notching 18 strikeouts.

 "I feel like through hard work, you can do really anything, so I know I've worked hard, as hard as anybody in the country," Becker said.

Fifth-year pitcher John Gilreath relieved Becker in the sixth and gave up four runs on three hits in his only inning of play. The bullpen as a whole had a rough outing, surrendering eight runs on six hits through three innings.

The offense struggled to hit the ball, failing to record a hit or reach base through the first six innings. Despite the lack of baserunners, the Gamecocks showed improved plate vision, only striking out four times compared to the 13 averaged in the two games prior.

South Carolina's lone hit came in the seventh inning when Belk doubled to deep center after junior centerfielder Drew Gilbert dropped the ball while backpedaling. 

"We just need to get back to work," Kingston said. "As I told the team, 'this is one bad weekend, today was not what we were hoping for and two and a half hours into that game going into the sixth inning we had a 2-0 ballgame and then it could have gone either way, but it got away from us late. When it gets tough, you've gotta work, that's the bottom line.'"

Fifth-year outfielder Andrew Eyster was a late scratch from South Carolina's starting lineup due to an apparent hamstring injury. Kingston said there's no timetable for Eyster's return yet, as he undergoes further evaluation. 

What's next?

South Carolina will be back in action on Tuesday when it travels to Charleston to take on The Citadel. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPN+.


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