South Carolina picked up its sixth ranked win but dropped its series to No. 14 Georgia over the weekend, despite an overall solid offensive performance in the series' final two games.
Despite leading through four innings of the game, South Carolina gave up two crucial runs in the ninth inning to drop game one against Georgia 3-2.
Fifth-year first baseman Brandt Belk extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a leadoff single. Belk finished 2-3 at the plate with an intentional walk and was the only Gamecock with multiple hits.
Freshman shortstop Michael Braswell returned to the lineup after taking the night off when the team stunned No. 22 North Carolina last Tuesday. Braswell's woes at the plate continued, going 0-for-3 without reaching base.
Junior right-hander Noah Hall took the bump for the Gamecocks, holding the Bulldogs to one run on seven hits while piling up 10 strikeouts in seven innings of work.
Hall finished with 108 pitches, two shy from his career-high of 110 that he threw against then No. 1 Texas.
"Noah's been our best pitcher for the last few weeks," head coach Mark Kingston said. "He's done everything we want a Friday night guy to do. He won last week and had almost the identical outing in this week ... thrilled with his progress."
Freshman right-hander Cade Austin closed out the final two innings of the game. Austin walked two batters in the ninth before giving up a single that tied the game and set up the winning run for Georgia.
"To close out a game, Cade's the best we have," Kingston said. "He got out in the eighth inning and he's the guy we need to give the ball in the ninth inning, and he just didn't get it done."
South Carolina's inability to put the ball in play was what cost it the game. The offense only gathered five hits in total and went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position, including leaving the bases loaded in the fifth.
South Carolina looked to improve offensively after Friday's tough loss and did so in its 13-7 win over Georgia.
The Gamecocks came alive at bat as they scored two runs in the second inning. Junior catcher Colin Burgess hit a three-run home run late in the fifth inning to extend South Carolina’s lead on Georgia.
“I was looking for something away because I saw the wind, obviously, and I saw the home run from (Georgia’s Cole) Tate,” Burgess said. “And I was like, 'hopefully I can do what I did against Florida last year, get it on the jet stream and get it out.'”
Freshman catcher Talmedge LeCroy had a big hit in the bottom of the eighth inning to help secure the Gamecocks' victory.
“He fought off some pitches and he got a pitch and he hit it hard,” Kingston said. “That's what we need, we need some more guys to step up and help us and give us a spark.”
Belk extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a single to center field late in the third inning to help the Gamecocks offensively.
Georgia got some momentum going, hitting three home runs and scoring two runs in the seventh and eighth inning. The Gamecocks responded by scoring five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to secure the win.
Sophomore right-hander Will Sanders started on the mound for the Gamecocks. Sanders pitched nine strikeouts during six innings, while only allowing five hits and four runs.
“Going back out for the third inning, I was just trying to make everything quick,” Sanders said. “Keep throwing strikes, get early contact, early outs and try to go as long as I can.”
The Gamecocks have become well accustomed to playing the rubber match this season but fell short on Sunday by a score of 13-9.
Although the offense delivered a barrage of hits, the pitching struggled and it seemed to come in chunks.
Georgia would score five runs in the first inning, three in the fourth and four in the sixth. Starting freshman pitcher Aidan Hunter only lasted three innings, giving up five earned runs. The bullpen gave up eight runs behind him.
"Coming in, (Georgia) were the top offense in the league," Kingston said postgame. "It was clear they have a very experienced, talented lineup. Our guys that pitched today really struggled against that approach."
South Carolina had its fair share of big chunk innings as well but could not cut the Georgia lead down to anything lower than five.
Belk hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning that felt like it was going to change momentum, but Georgia responded with a run in the seventh. He led the team with three hits on the afternoon and stretched his hitting streak to 20 games.
“Three more hits today," Kingston said, "He's just everything you want there at the top of the lineup."
The loss was South Carolina’s second consecutive SEC series loss.
South Carolina will be back in action on Tuesday when it continues its homestand against North Florida. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be viewed on SECN+.