USC vs LSU SEC tournament Game 2: score, highlights

South Carolina pitcher Nick Proctor

South Carolina pitcher Nick Proctor

Special To The State

South Carolina head coach Mark Kingston quipped before Wednesday’s SEC Tournament game against LSU that he would “flip a coin” to decide who would pitch for the Gamecocks.

Bogged down by injuries to starters Will Sanders, Noah Hall and top freshman Eli Jerzembeck, the No. 6 seed Gamecocks have limited options on the mound right now. Wednesday’s choice wound up being Eli Jones, starting on short rest after last pitching May 19. And though Jones pitched admirably against LSU, USC’s lack of pitching depth became apparent as soon as he exited the game.

The mighty No. 3 seed Tigers exploded against the USC bullpen to deal the Gamecocks a 10-3 loss, sending USC (39-18) to the losers bracket and setting up an elimination game Thursday at 10:30 a.m. against either Texas A&M or Arkansas.

After starting Game 1 against Tennessee in USC’s last series of the season, Jones gave USC four solid innings — his only blemish a two-run home run off the bat of Brayden Jobert — before he hit a wall in the fifth inning. The Tigers tallied back-to-back hits to start the fifth against Jones and then sunk their teeth into the underbelly of the bullpen.

Reliever Nick Proctor was the first USC reliever to emerge from the bullpen doors, and he promptly allowed a single to top LSU hitter Dylan Crews before walking in two runs on eight straight balls, then allowing two more runs on sacrifice flies. Seldom used left-hander Jackson Phipps didn’t fare much better, giving up two runs on three hits in the sixth inning to help the Tigers put the game out of reach. Right-hander Brett Thomas gave up two more runs behind him.

A day after scoring nine runs on 12 hits against Georgia, the USC lineup had a tougher go of it against LSU right-hander Thatcher Hurd, who came into the contest with a 6.58 ERA in 41 innings this season. Hurd pitched better than his numbers would indicate, touching 96 miles per hour on the radar gun and retiring the first 12 Gamecocks he faced.

Freshman slugger Ethan Petry ended the perfect game bid with a solo home run to lead off the fifth inning, but otherwise, the Gamecocks mustered just three runs on five hits. Two of those runs scored on bases-loaded walks against the Tigers bullpen.

It didn’t help the Gamecocks that they lost catcher and three-hole hitter Cole Messina to an injury in the third inning. Messina took a foul tip off of his catcher’s mask in the second inning, and USC removed him from the game and replaced him with Jonathan French.

SEC Tournament: Next USC baseball game

Thursday: vs. No. 10 Texas A&M or No. 2 Arkansas, 10:30 a.m. (SEC Network)

Michael Lananna specializes in Gamecocks athletics and storytelling projects for The State. Featured in Best American Sports Writing 2018, Lananna covered college baseball nationally before moving to Columbia in 2020. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2014 with a degree in journalism.
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