By Miss. State Media Relations
COLUMBIA, S.C. – A four-run first inning proved critical as South Carolina defeated Mississippi State 10-2 in a Southeastern Conference baseball game Friday night at Carolina Stadium.
No. 12 USC improved to 21-5 overall and a league-best 6-1 in conference play. MSU fell to 14-12 and 2-5. The Gamecocks are now 15-1 at home this season.
South Carolina senior right-hander Blake Cooper flirted with his fourth career complete game, before being lifted with one out in the ninth inning. Cooper was aided greatly by the four-run USC first inning and then a pair of two-run home runs later in the contest.
The Bulldogs also technically got a complete game from sophomore right-hander Caleb Reed. MSU starter Kendall Graveman was lifted after facing five batters and not recording an out in the first inning.
MSU actually grabbed a 1-0 lead on Luke Adkins’ second home run of the year in the top of the first inning. Things became quickly unraveled when the Gamecocks scored four times in the bottom half of the first inning.
Graveman was touched for a pair of hits and issued three walks. The first of four MSU errors did not help matters either. Reed then entered and was again victimized by an infield error scoring another run. A sacrifice-fly by Bobby Haney capped the four-run inning.
The Bulldogs closed within 4-2 in the third inning. Sam Frost started things with an infield hit. Nick Vickerson followed with a single. Adkins was walked to load the bases. Connor Powers reached as a hit batsman, forcing in a run. Russ Sneed then hit a hard-hit ground ball, which became an inning-ending double play.
The Gamecocks put the game away with a single score in the third inning, two scores in the fifth inning and three scores in the eighth inning. Brady Thomas hit a two-run home run in both the fifth and eighth innings. The USC designated hitter has now homered three times on the season.
Reed pitched eight innings, allowing nine hits and six runs (all earned), with four strikeouts and no walks. Graveman fell to 1-2 with the defeat.
Cooper improved to 5-0 with 8.1 innings of work. Cooper allowed six hits and two runs (both earned), with seven strikeouts and a walk. After allowing a leadoff single in the sixth inning, Cooper retired nine straight batters before allowing a leadoff single in the ninth inning.
MSU finished with six hits. Frost was the lone multiple hitter for the Maroon and White.
USC finished with 11 hits. Thomas had three hits, while Whit Merrifield and Jeffery Jones added multiple hits.
The series resumes with a 3 p.m. CT start Saturday. MSU is slated to start freshman right-hander Chris Stratton (2-3, 3.48 ERA), while USC is slated to start junior right-hander Sam Dyson (2-0, 4.15 ERA). That contest will be televised regionally by SportSouth. ESPNU has the 1 p.m. CT series finale on Sunday.