By David Cloninger/Special to the Journal
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No hard-luck bounces or fluke plays this time.
Mississippi State simply lost the game and the series.
Kendall Graveman struck out seven but gave up five runs – all with two outs – as No. 10 South Carolina beat the Bulldogs 5-3 on Saturday to claim the series. MSU will attempt to salvage a win and avoid a sweep today at 12:30 p.m.
“The ball has to fall for you,” coach John Cohen said. “What can you do? There’s an element of luck, and that’s why they play 162 games in the big leagues. We’ll keep competing our tails off. I love the way our kids are competing.”
A day after South Carolina (26-10, 7-7 SEC) scored four runs in the eighth inning to stun the visiting Bulldogs (21-14, 5-9), the Gamecocks kept at it. In the third inning, Graveman (2-2) intentionally walked Christian Walker to avoid the slugger’s dangerous swing, just as Chris Stratton did on Friday, and LB Dantzler made him pay with a two-run single, just as he did against Stratton.
“Last year, (Walker) had a real good weekend against us,” Graveman said. “We’re not going to let him beat us. Dantzler came in and he got a good hit.”
South Carolina added three more runs before MSU finally got on the board, Tyler Porter launching a massive solo home run to chase starter Jordan Montgomery and the Bulldogs getting into USC’s tattered bullpen. Adam Frazier plated Tyler Fullerton on a sacrifice fly and Sam Frost scored on two consecutive wild pitches to make it 5-3, but MSU got no further.
Nolan Belcher got the final out of MSU’s big seventh and South Carolina didn’t hesitate. All-American closer Matt Price jogged out for the eighth inning, and he delivered his second save in as many games.
Cohen mentioned how the ball seems to be doing everything but sit up and dance for the opponent. Mitch Slauter had two drives for at least two bases each get caught with fence-crashing catches, and Sam Frost had a long ball bounce into the bullpen for a ground-rule double, depriving him of an RBI. Evan Mitchell (1-0, 4.12) will probably pitch for the Bulldogs this afternoon as they try to avoid the broom treatment.
“We had a runner on first base and the ball hits the warning track and bounces over the fence when we had the fastest guy on our club on first,” Cohen said. “He’s going to score no matter what, and then you’re going, ‘Wow.’ Our team’s just going, ‘What else can possibly happen?’”