College Sports

Gamecocks headed home from Hoover

South Carolina outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams looks down as he leaves the field in the ninth inning against Texas A&M Thursday in Hoover, Ala.
South Carolina outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams looks down as he leaves the field in the ninth inning against Texas A&M Thursday in Hoover, Ala. AP

Hoover, Ala. The SEC will decide on potentially moving the SEC tournament from Hoover to another location next week at the spring meetings in Destin, Fla. It’s safe to say South Carolina would be happy with a change of scenery.

USC was eliminated from the SEC tournament with a 4-1 loss to Texas A&M Thursday morning at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

The Gamecocks stranded eight runners and finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position while losing their eighth-straight game in the SEC tournament.

South Carolina is 2-13 in Hoover dating back to 2010 and has not won the tourney since 2004. Chad Holbrook is winless in six games in Hoover.

“I’m at a loss for words when it comes to that,” Holbrook said of his team’s struggles at the SEC tournament. “We’ve had great regular seasons and we get here and for some reason we haven’t played well. I don’t know how to explain it.”

A day after the Gamecocks committed five errors and struggled on the mound, USC pitched well and played great defense for the most part but the offense provided no help.

Texas A&M scored three runs in the second inning off USC starter Braden Webb as Ryne Birk walked and Nick Banks, Michael Barash and Jonathan Moroney followed with RBI hits.

That was all the run support the Aggies needed. USC got a run back in the third inning on a Marcus Mooney RBI single but that would be it for the Gamecocks.

“I’m faulting myself for my second inning because I came out after the first inning and was locating my pitches, then I made a few mistakes here-and-there and they capitalized on them,” Webb said. “This was a huge game for us. I just came out expecting to go out and battle because A&M is the best hitting team in the country. I didn’t do a very good job in that one inning. I’m at a loss for words right now.”

Despite struggling in the second inning, Webb pitched well overall.

He allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings of work and struck out eight batters to keep the Gamecocks in the game. The only extra-base hit he allowed was a double in the second inning.

Josh Reagan came on in relief in the seventh and allowed only an unearned run in the final 2 1/3 innings.

“Braden and Josh threw extremely well to hold a tough lineup like that at bay,” Holbrook said. “If you’d have said we would keep them to three or four runs before the game I’d have signed up for that, and we were going to try to find a way to score four or five.”

The Gamecocks had plenty of chances to get back in the game but came up empty several times with runners on base.

Jonah Bride grounded out with two outs in the first inning and runners on the corners and again in the third with runners on second and third.

USC had runners on first and second and one out in the sixth and TJ Hopkins popped up to shallow right and Chris Cullen grounded out.

In the seventh inning USC got a runner to second with one out but Mooney grounded out and Alex Destino struck out.

“We had some guys in there give us some competitive at bats, but we didn’t have enough,” Holbrook said. “We’ve got to get back to work on that and find nine guys that will compete and give us competitive at bats against some really good pitching because there were a few instances today I thought our hitters were uncompetitive.”

THREE POINTS

Star of the game: Brigham Hill: The Texas A&M righty kept USC hitters off balance all day. He improved to 8-1 on the year by striking out eight and giving up only five hits in seven innings. The only run Carolina scored was unearned.

Play of the game: South Carolina left fielder Alex Destino made a great diving catch to end the fourth inning, fully extending to haul in a ball in foul territory off the bat of Michael Barash.

Stat of the game: 0-for-11: The bottom third of South Carolina’s order went 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts. The Gamecocks struck out 10 times in total.

OBSERVATIONS

Defense was much better: Destino made a diving catch and Stokes made a great diving stop on a ball that appeared headed for the corner. The only error USC committed came when Reagan threw the ball away while trying to pick off a runner.

Offensive approach was bad: USC hitters watched several balls go right down the middle before chasing pitches thrown in the dirt. There was also an apparent hit-and-run called with John Jones at the plate. He leads the team in strikeouts and swung and missed as Madison Stokes was caught stealing.

Destino in a funk: Carolina’s best power threat went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. In the past eight SEC games he is 5-for-35 with 12 strikeouts.

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