Baseball Falls in a Heartbreaker to South Carolina, 3-2

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Jonathan Smart goes 8.1 innings in regular season finale against South Carolina
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
Jonathan Smart goes 8.1 innings in regular season finale against South Carolina
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

May 21, 2011

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama baseball team (32-24, 14-16 SEC) lost a hard-fought battle, 3-2, to the No. 2-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (44-12, 22-8 SEC) in Saturday's series and regular season finale at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. With the win, USC takes the series and wins the SEC regular-season title.

The Tide had chances to capitalize on Gamecock mistakes but were unable to do so. Alabama left 10 runners on base and had runners in scoring position in four different innings, but could not knock home the two runs needed for the win.

"There were some shots there where we needed to get the big hit and just didn't get it," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "But again, they're the No. 2 team in the country and won the SEC for a reason. They're awfully good. They have really good hitting and really good pitching. They really know how to play, so a lot of credit goes to South Carolina."

The Gamecocks nearly tripled the Tide in hits with 12 compared to the Tide's five. However, a gutsy pitching performance from Jonathan Smart (4-2) kept Alabama close. In the loss, Smart went 8.1 innings, allowing only three earned runs while walking one and striking out two. Smart's stellar performance was matched by USC started Colby Holmes (6-2) who allowed only one run on four hits in 6.2 innings of work to earn the win and the series for the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks kicked off the scoring in the first inning. Following back-to-back singles by the first two hitters, a sac fly from the three-hole hitter set the score at 1-0 by the end of the half inning. USC added another run on a solo shot by Steven Neff in the top of the second to take a 2-0 lead.

Alabama rallied in the bottom of the seventh, scoring a run of its own to narrow the gap. With the bases loaded and two outs, Brock Bennett battled to earn the walk and cross one Tide runner and set the score at 2-1 through seven.

The Gamecocks came back and countered in the following at-bats, adding another run in the top of the eighth thanks to an RBI single with runners on the corners, boosting the lead to 3-1.

The Tide followed with a run of its own in the bottom half of the frame. With runners on second and third, an RBI groundout from Andrew Miller plated Austen Smith who led off the inning with a walk, setting the score at 3-2. But the Tide would get no closer as it could not muster a ninth-inning rally to take the win and the series. Gamecock closer Matt Price shut down the Tide to earn his 15th save of the season.

Alabama returns to action on Wednesday as the team travels to Hoover for the 2011 SEC Tournament. The first game of the tournament kicks off at 9:30 a.m. with seeding for the event yet to be determined.