OXFORD – Matt Smith may not have changed the game for Ole Miss on Friday night, but the Rebels would love for him to have had a shot.
Ole Miss lost for the sixth time in its last seven SEC games, missing a chance to pocket a meaningful win in its quest for the SEC and NCAA tournaments in a 6-1 loss to No. 2 South Carolina before an announced crowd of 8,121 at Swayze Field.
Smith, the team’s home run leader who also has 27 RBIs, had surgery on his hand Thursday and is out for at least two weeks.
Game 2 is at 2 p.m. today.
South Carolina left-hander Michael Roth began the night with a 1.24 earned run average and nine wins. The Rebels (25-21, 9-13 SEC) had chances to get to him in the middle innings but didn’t get it done.
Roth scattered six hits and gave up one run in eight innings.
“We made mistakes (on the mound), and they got hits. We got in similar situations, and they made pitches, and got out of the inning,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “That’s why they’re good.”
Ole Miss starter Matt Crouse went six innings, tiring in the sixth, giving up a single and double to lead things off. Both runners scored, charged to Crouse, though one was an inherited runner allowed home by reliever Eric Callender.
South Carolina second baseman Scott Wingo had three hits, two of them on bunts, and scored two runs. The Gamecocks (37-8, 18-4 SEC) had 14 hits on the night.
Ole Miss did not impact the game in the middle innings, but Carolina impacted it late. The two runs in the seventh gave the Gamecocks a 5-1 lead. They also scored in the sixth and eighth innings.
Before that, there were RBI opportunities for designated hitter Matt Snyder – who had two home runs at Arkansas State Wednesday night – in the third and fifth, but Roth retired him each time.
“I definitely missed some opportunities and left about five guys on,” Snyder said. “We had other guys who should have gotten guys in, too. We didn’t do it, and they did, and that was the difference tonight.”
The Rebels got on the board in the third when Miles Hamblin doubled and scored on a ground ball out.
Ole Miss, though, missed a chance to inflict greater damage against Roth. The Rebels loaded the bases with one out, but Roth got a called strikeout against Snyder and a lazy fly ball from Matt Tracy to strand three.
Down 2-1 in the fifth, Tanner Mathis led off with a single, was bunted to second by Blake Newalu and reached third on a single by Alex Yarbrough.
But Roth stayed low and got ahead of Snyder, then got two for one when Snyder grounded to short for a 6-3 double play.
The Gamecocks got the big hit early. After a questionable hit-by-pitch for Wingo, the two-hole hitter, Crouse had a 1-2 count with two outs on Brady Thomas when he poked a single through the middle, and the run scored easily.
There was more timely hitting for the Gamecocks in the second when they opened with a double off the wall by Evan Marzilli and another basehit. Marzilli trotted home on a fly ball that wasn’t particularly hard hit, and the lead was 2-0.
“We have to execute. When they got guys in scoring position they did an unbelievable job of finding ways to score,” Yarbrough said. “We had similar opportunities but didn’t get the big hit.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal