COLUMBIA, S.C. - Charleston Southern pushed No. 11 South Carolina to the limits on Tuesday night. The Bucs didn't come away with their first win over the Gamecocks in 10 years, but they did come away with an effort on which to build.
CSU outhit the Gamecocks, 13-12, and threatened inning after inning in a 9-5 loss to USC on Tuesday night in front of 8,114 at Carolina Stadium. The Buccaneers fall to 11-17, while USC moves to 23-6.
The Buccaneers threatened throughout the night against the Gamecocks, but never got the big blow to rally from an early 4-0 deficit. The breaks didn't go CSU's way either, including loading the bases in the ninth, only to have the game end with John Faircloth being punched out at first on what appeared to be a bases-loaded, infield single.
South Carolina second baseman Max Schrock also took a hit away from CSU's Bobby Ison earlier in the inning, to stave off a Bucs' rally. CSU left 10 runners on base, including the bases full to end the game.
One thing the Bucs will definitely take away from the loss is confidence their resurgent offense. The Bucs hit the ball hard all night, carrying over momentum from a weekend sweep of Asheville. It was CSU's fourth straight 10-hit game.
"You have to take some positive things from a game like this," CSU head coach Stuart Lake said. "Obviously, getting double digits in hits against a good pitching staff is a positive. With Johnny (Faircloth) getting back tonight and a couple other guys coming on, we're start to gain some confidence."
Faircloth nearly homered in his first at-bat in a week, flying out to the base of the wall with a pair of runners on in the eighth.
The Bucs' Alex Tomasovich also came up just short of the big hit the Bucs needed. He rocketed a double off the top of the wall in left center that would have tied the game in the fifth.
"We were over in the dugout saying 'what if' going into the ninth," Lake said. "What if Alex's ball carries another couple of feet? Our guys never gave in and that's something in a tough environment like this. And give (South Carolina) credit, it is very tough to pitch to the middle of their lineup."
Big swings from the middle of the Gamecocks' order kept South Carolina ahead. Schrock tripled and scored in the seventh and LB Dantzler hit a solo home run to keep the pressure off the USC bullpen until the ninth.
CSU's Drew Woodall belted a solo home run, his first of the season, to lead off the ninth for the Bucs. Kevin Hickey followed with a single, and Ison appeared to do the same, before Schrock's diving stop and backhanded flip to second force out Hickey at second slowed the Bucs' rally. CSU would load the bases on a walk and a single, before Faircloth was called out to end the game.
Five Bucs had multiple hits in the game, led by a 2-for-4 night by Tomasovich, who seemed to hit the ball hard every time up. Zack Hagaman was also 2-for-4 and reached base three times.
Schrock was 3-for-5 for USC and scored twice.
The Gamecocks broke into the scoring column with four runs in the bottom of the second. Catcher Grayson Greiner broke through with an RBI single to score Connor Bright. A wild pitch from Bucs' starter Stephen Leopard (LP, 1-2) would score Schrock to give USC a 2-0 lead. Leadoff man Graham Saiko followed with an RBI single into the hole at short to add another run and a sacrifice fly from Chase Vergason plated the Gamecocks' final run, scoring Greiner to push the lead to 4-0.
CSU cut the lead in half in the top of the fourth as the Bucs' bats came to life. Hagaman's single to right field scored Ison, and an RBI single to center from Brian Welch plated Tomasovich for the Bucs' second run. Both Ison and Tomasovich reached by singling off of USC starter Colby Holmes (WP, 3-2).
South Carolina built its lead back to four in the bottom of the fourth as T.J.Costen hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot off of Bucs' reliever Matt Witt as USC moved ahead 6-2.
The Bucs got the two runs back again in the fifth as Ison's RBI single scored Chase Shelton, who drew a leadoff walk. Tomasovich nearly tied the game, doubling off the top of the wall in left center to score Drew Woodall and cut the lead to 6-4.
Gamecocks' reliever Vince Fiori came on to get a fielder's choice on a force out at home and a strikeout to work out of the bases-loaded jam.
USC would add to its lead on an LB Dantzler triple in the seventh as the Gamecocks extended their edge out to 8-4.
CSU threatened in the eighth as Hagaman and first baseman Robbie Streett put together back-to-back singles. Pinch hitter John Faircloth flew out to the warning track in left off of Fiori to make USC fans nervous for a moment. Fiori would get Shelton to pop out to end the inning and the Bucs' threat.
Dantzler added a solo home run in the eighth for USC, his 10th of the year.
Charleston Southern travels to Gardner-Webb on Friday to open a three-game series. First pitch for the Big South matchup is at 6 p.m. in Boiling Springs, S.C.