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Analysis: No. 20 Թϱ baseball suffers 1st SEC series loss of 2024 season to Ole Miss

<p>FILE- Junior outfielder Kennedy Jones gets ready to bat during the Gamecocks’ 12-1 victory over Belmont at Founders Park on Feb. 25, 2024. The Gamecocks suffered its second series loss of the season to Ole Miss over the weekend.</p>
FILE- Junior outfielder Kennedy Jones gets ready to bat during the Gamecocks’ 12-1 victory over Belmont at Founders Park on Feb. 25, 2024. The Gamecocks suffered its second series loss of the season to Ole Miss over the weekend.

The No. 20 Թϱ baseball team lost its first SEC series of the season to the Ole Miss Rebels this weekend, falling in the first two games before picking up a win on Sunday.

The Gamecocks dropped the first game of the series 5-4. It struck first with two runs in the second inning and another in the fourth, but it wasn't able to hold on to the lead for much longer.

The team scored another run in the eighth inning on a fielding error but could not muster up the tying run, losing the game.

Թϱ did not fare much better in game two, which it lost 12-3. The Gamecocks were behind 2-0 in the third inning, but a solo home run from sophomore outfielder Ethan Petry in the fourth and two-run home run by junior outfielder Kennedy Jones in the fifth propelled Թϱ to its first lead of the game.

The Gamecocks' offense would fall flat the rest of the game, however, and the Rebels scored 10 unanswered runs across the fifth and eighth innings to clinch the series win.

Թϱ's offense performed better in game three. It would score first with senior infielder Tyler Causey's two-run home run in the second inning, which scored junior third baseman Talmadge LeCroy after his single. In the fifth inning, LeCroy added more insurance by hitting a 2-RBI, double-scoring junior outfielder Kennedy Jones and junior catcher Cole Messina. 

The Rebels' two runs came in the sixth inning, when junior pitcher Matthew Becker gave up an RBI triple. That runner then scored on a groundout, making it a 6-2 game in the Gamecocks' favor for the remainder of the contest.

Here are some key takeaways from the series as the Gamecocks head into its next midweek matchup.

Inconsistent hitting woes hurt Gamecocks in game one

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In the first game, the Gamecocks' top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 0-16 with seven strikeouts and one walk. Sophomore outfielder Ethan Petry had the poorest performance of the group, striking in all four at-bats.

Fifth-year outfielder Dylan Brewer, the leadoff hitter, was the most productive of the four. Brewer tallied an RBI on a groundout in the fourth inning and did not strike out once. Brewer is hitting .343 on the season.

Late bullpen collapse seals Ole Miss victory in game two

After the Gamecocks pulled ahead in the top of the fifth inning, Ole Miss provided an immediate answer with two solo home runs in the bottom of the frame to regain the lead.

The game remained close until the eighth inning, where the Rebels scored eight runs to ultimately put the game out of reach for Թϱ. Three Թϱ relief pitchers — sophomore Connor McCreery, fifth-year Drake Quinn and freshman Jake McCoy — combined to allow six hits and three walks in the inning.

Most of Թϱ's opponents moving forward are SEC teams, and late-game implosions such as this one could pose a problem for close contests in the future.

Pitching bounces back, dominates in game three

The Gamecocks' pitching staff rebounded after Saturday’s rough performance, allowing 12 runs in game three. 

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Roman Kimball had a tough game, pitching just 1.2 innings and walking five batters. Kimball didn’t allow any runners or hits in his short time on the mound, though. 

The Gamecocks turned to Becker in the second inning to escape a bases-loaded jam. Becker forced a groundout to get out of the inning, and he went on to pitch five more. He gave up four hits in his 5.1 innings of work while striking out four.

Թϱ looked to senior pitcher Garrett Gainey in the final two innings. Gainey only allowed one hit and one walk, and he struck out two. He didn't allow any scored runs, putting a stop to the Rebels and sealing the Gamecocks' first SEC win of the season.

What's next?

Թϱ will return to action Tuesday night when it takes on USC Upstate (14-7, 3-0 Big South) at Fluor Field in Greenville, Թϱ. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.


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