Sports

2012 College Baseball: Lessons Learned from South Carolina vs. Mississippi State

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South Carolina hosted the Bulldogs from the West and swept the series 3 games to none.

Breaking it Down...Friday might have been the turning point for the season. Michael Roth began the game incredibly well and didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning.  While he did that, the offense built a three run lead.  That lead was cut into and disappeared.  Roth left the game with one out in the sixth, and MSU built a 6-3 lead.  In the bottom of the eighth with two outs the game looked grim.  Then Grayson Greiner hit a solo home run to cut the lead to 2.  Adam Matthews then singled up the middle.  Bulldog ace pitcher Chris Stratton was then pulled from the game.

Caleb Reed, a closer who had been 7 for 7 in save opportunities entered.  Brison Celek roped a double into left field to put the tying run on second.  Sean Sullivan was called on to pinch hit.  He was quickly down 0-2 in the count but he lofted a little blooper to right field.  The right fielder dove for the ball and couldn't come up with it.  Sullivan ended up at third, and the game was tied.  Tanner English then swung at a pitch that was way outside the zone for strike three, but the ball was so far outside it got away from the catcher.  English raced to first, and Sullivan came home to give the Gamecocks the lead.

With a one run lead, Matt Price entered.  He induced two ground outs to second and a lazy looper to short, and the Gamecocks had won.  The Gamecocks got the clutch hitting they needed and may have turned their season around.  The Bulldogs were shell shocked and wouldn't really recover all weekend.

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On Saturday the Gamecocks took the lead early.  L.B. Dantzler drove in two with two outs in the 3rd.  Christian Walker drove in English with two outs in the 5th, and USC scored a pair more in the 6th, again with two outs to build a 5-0 lead.  MSU tried to make it interesting in the 7th, and some Gamecock relievers didn't have their best outing.  3 runs later the game was close.  Price came in to the game in the 8th, gave up two hits, but no runs and saved Saturday's game.

On Sunday, the Bulldogs came out with purpose to try to avoid the sweep.  Carolina took a one run lead, but MSU grabbed its first lead since Friday night by scoring two in the 5th,  USC needed to respond, and they did.  They cranked out 3 runs on 3 hits to take the lead back for good.  They added two in the bottom of the eighth to put the game away.  The Bulldogs staged a mini rally in the 9th to cut the lead to 2, but they didn't have the firepower to  overcome a 4 run lead.

What to Take Away From the Weekend...Be happy about a sweep.  South Carolina and Mississippi State came into the weekend with identical 5-7 records.  The Gamecocks are now 8-7 and over .500 for the first time all year.  They also moved ahead of Tennessee and Georgia in the standings.  They now trail Florida by a game and Kentucky by 3.

In a bigger sense, this team may have found itself.  On Friday night in the 8th inning few expected them to get 4 runs on timely hitting to take the lead, but they did.  That improbable event is exactly the kind of spark that can ignite a 2nd half season run.  By following that win up with two more, there's no reason to think they can't go on a tear.

Stars of the Series...Joey Pankake...5-14, 2B, 3 RBI, SB... Evan Marzilli...5-12, 2 3B, SB...L.B. Dantzler...5 RBI...Grayson Greiner...HR, 2 2B, RBI...Tanner English...5-11, 3B, RBI, SB...Matt Price...2 Saves, 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 K...Jordan Montgomery...W, 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 K...Colby Holmes...W, 8.1 IP, 4 ER, 3 K, 0 BB...

This and That...South Carolina is now 27-10 (8-7)...The Gamecocks

Up next...South Carolina hosts College of Charleston on Tuesday night at home before traveling to the plains to play Auburn in the weekend tilt.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.