Trailing 5-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth Friday night, 30th ranked South Carolina (31-23) scored two runs but the rally fell just shy as Georgia (25-30) held on for the 5-4 win at Founders Park to clinch the final series of the regular season.
Kevin Smith (5-5) picked up the win after striking out five and giving up two runs in five innings of work. Adam Hill took the loss to move to 3-6 on the season. He threw 4.1 innings, giving up three runs and striking out six.
Hill had a strong start on the mound for the Gamecocks with two strikeouts in the top half of the first, pitching around a double and a walk. The game was scoreless until TJ Hopkins dropped in a clutch two-out single to right field that scored Riley Hogan from third base. Hill continued his steady work in the circle, mowing down the Bulldogs in order in the third.
Justin Row led off the bottom of the third with a double over the right fielder’s head. Jonah Bride would later drive Row in from third with a groundball deep in the hole at second base as Carolina took a 2-0 lead to the fourth. Hill stayed solid, pitching around two more base runners again in the top half of the fourth. He struck out two for his fifth and sixth strikeouts of the game, as the lead remained 2-0 heading to the bottom half of the inning.
Georgia threatened again in the fifth with one out after putting runners on the corners with two singles. Hill then walked Bulldog catcher Michael Curry on four straight pitches to load the bases, ending his night with his pitch count already at 105. Lefty Josh Reagan came in for Hill in relief. A bases clearing double to cleanup man Keegan McGovern gave Georgia its first lead of the game, 3-2. Reagan then struck out the next two batters he faced to end the inning.
The Gamecocks looked to retake the lead in the bottom of the fifth after LT Tolbert was hit by a pitch and Carlos Cortes walked, putting runners on first and second with one out. Hogan stepped in and hit a sharp grounder right at Bulldog second baseman LJ Talley to end the inning via a 4-6-3 double play.
After Reagan sat down Georgia in order with two strikeouts in the top of the sixth, Carolina put runners on first and second again in the bottom half of the inning with one out. John Jones advanced the runners with a groundout to first base. Row stepped in and was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. Tolbert then hit a groundball back at the pitcher to end the inning, the Gamecocks still trailing 3-2.
Georgia tacked on another run to its lead in the seventh after leadoff man Tucker Bradley scored on a McGovern groundout to Tolbert at second base. The RBI was his fourth of the game as the Bulldogs took a 4-2 lead into the bottom half of the seventh inning. Carolina put two runners on with no outs to start the seventh. Alex Destino advanced them to second and third with two down after he grounded out to second base, but Jacob Olson struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Bulldogs’ lead grew to 5-2 in the top half of the eighth after a wild throw by Row deep in the hole at shortstop took Matt Williams off the bag at first. In the bottom of the eighth, Jones ripped a single up the middle with one out. Row then walked as the Gamecocks had runners on first and second again with one down. Tolbert hit a sharp ground ball to second base, as Georgia turned another 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, haulting the Carolina offensive.
Two bunt singles by Cortes and Destino down the third baseline in the bottom of the ninth put runners on the corners with two outs for Carolina, who still trailed 5-2. Olson ripped a single, his second of the game, to left field that scored Cortes from third to cut it to 5-3. Hopkins stepped to the dish and hit a blooper double to shallow left that scored Destino from third and kept the two-out rally alive. Jones then walked on a full count to load the bases. In stepped Row with a chance to tie the game. He lifted the ball on an 0-1 count to the gap in right center, but Maxwell made a nice play in center to end the game.
McGovern’s three-run double in the top of the fifth inning put Georgia in front 3-2 and proved to be the difference in the game.
Carolina left 14 runners on base and went 4-for-17 (.235) with runners in scoring position.
• Adam Hill, Josh Reagan, and Reed Scott combined for 14 strikeouts for the home team.
• Three Gamecocks had multi-hit games: Carlos Cortes (2), Jacob Olson (2) and TJ Hopkins (2).
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
“It was a tough loss. We were battling and competing the first several innings and got a 2-0 lead there. Adam [Hill] just wasn't very efficient and his pitch count got high.They had the bases loaded and we brought Josh [Reagan] in to get us out of a jam and they had a big three-run double there. We really couldn't catch up after that. I told our team I was proud of them for leaving it all on the field and giving us a chance to win. In the ninth inning there and we just couldn't get that big hit. We had a couple chances to win it. John [Jones] had a couple good swings at it and [Justin] Row had a good swing at the end. It just didn't fall for us. There have been a number of occurrences like that over the season and I feel it for our players. They battled hard in that ninth inning, but we just didn't do enough in the first eight. I'm proud of them though.”
The Gamecocks are back in action on Saturday, May 20 as they host Georgia for final game in the three game series. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and is also available on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”