Mississippi State blew a three-run lead by giving up four two-out runs in the eighth inning, sending the Bulldogs to a 7-6 series-opening loss at No. 10 South Carolina on Friday night.
Seemingly in control with a lead and closer Caleb Reed ready to replace flamethrower Chris Stratton, the Bulldogs (21-13, 5-8 SEC) saw a series-opening win vanish quicker than a coaching job after a Harley-Davidson wreck.
"When you give up game-winning hits that aren't hit very well, you start to wonder," coach John Cohen sighed. "There's a little bit of luck involved. We had some things happen to us that I don't think anybody in the world could have foreseen."
Stratton struck out 11 through 72/3 innings, but was touched for a solo home run from Grayson Greiner in the eighth and then a single from Adam Matthews. Reed, who was 7 for 7 on save opportunities, relieved with two outs and faced Brison Celek.
Celek doubled to put a man at third, which brought up pinch-hitter Sean Sullivan. In just his 21st at-bat of the year, Sullivan flared a short drive to right, and Brent Brownlee charged in.
Brownlee dove, but the ball skipped past him as the Carolina Stadium crowd leaped to its feet. Two runs scored to tie the game, which brought up Tanner English.
"If the ball bounces, two runs are going to score," Cohen said. "In that situation, you've got to go for the win."
Reed struck out English, but the final pitch skipped past catcher Mitch Slauter. As English dropped his bat unbelievingly and sprinted to first, Sullivan scored the go-ahead run.
"We know this should have been an easy win," said Reed, shouldering the blame. "I just didn't come in and do my role behind him like I should have."
South Carolina needed no script to follow to know what to do. Matt Price entered from the bullpen, recorded three quick outs and clinched the save. Reed ended with another hard-luck loss, his fifth of the year, and MSU was faced with trying to win two games in two days to take the series.
Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.68 ERA) is scheduled to pitch Game 2 today for Mississippi State against freshman Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 2.70). First pitch is set for 3 p.m. CT.
The Bulldogs' C.T. Bradford hit a solo home run and drove in two more with a triple. Wes Rea hit a solo homer as well.
"I should have never put our team in that situation," Reed said. "We have to go about it and think that we need to win (Saturday's) game."