It was unseasonably cool at Founders Park on Saturday. It felt fitting.
South Carolina’s baseball season has been similarly chilly. The Gamecocks dropped their sixth SEC series in as many chances with a 6-3 loss to No. 7 Texas A&M in the second game of a doubleheader made necessary by Friday night’s rainout. South Carolina won Game 2 earlier in the day 3-2 to give themselves a chance to get the series win but ultimately fell to 23-17 overall and 5-13 in the league. The Aggies improved to 29-12-1 overall and 11-6-1 in the conference.
“I’ll say that about the team: They are giving us everything they have,” USC coach Mark Kingston said. “We just have to get better.
“There’s not an area that I am happy with that I think is up to snuff right now. Our pitching needs to be better, our defense has probably improved as much as anything over the course of the year and our offense is not where it needs to be. Every area of this team needs to be better.”
That means working, Kingston said.
“It’s just a day-by-day process and you work at it,” he said. “We’ve tried a lot of different things. We haven’t played every card yet, but we will continue to explore what we can do with this roster, and if there are other things we think might spark us, we’ll look at it, but for the most part I think we have tried just about everything. It’s just a matter of working to try to get guys better.”
The temperature at the start of the second game was 57 degrees, almost 20 degrees cooler than the average high temperature in late April in Columbia. It was symbolic of a season that has shown a few sparks in midweek games, like beating No. 3 N.C. State on April 2 and No. 17 North Carolina 5-2 on Tuesday, but nothing that has become enough to heat up the SEC weekends. A crowd of 7,248 was announced for Game 2.
“The first thing I’d like to do is thank the fans,” Kingston said. “That was a really good environment and it was a cold and rainy day, and when we had the bases loaded with a chance to win the game in the sixth, it was as loud as I have heard it all year. So No. 1, I want to thank the fans. Very disappointed we sent them home unhappy.”
Both games were seven-run affairs, and the Gamecocks went the final 13 innings of the day with only three runs. Luke Berryhill’s three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 gave South Carolina a 3-0 lead and only offensive highlight of the day. The Gamecocks managed seven hits combined in the two games.
“It was heartbreaking. It’s just baseball,” Berryhill said. “We have been playing this game all our lives. Sometimes it goes our way; sometimes it goes the other teams’ way. You just have to do your best the next time.”
Texas A&M built a 4-1 lead in Game 2, but South Carolina scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to close the gap to 4-3 and threatened to get more, but junior George Callil struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning. The Aggies got insurance in the top of the seventh when Bryce Blaum hit a two-run home run off freshman closer Brett Kerry.
South Carolina sophomore starter T.J. Shook of Irmo got the victory and freshman closer Brett Kerry got his fifth save of the season in Game 1.
The Gamecocks entered this series 12th in the SEC in pitching (4.64 ERA) and dead last in batting (.239). They have hit more home runs than any team in the conference (59) but are next-to-last in RBIs (200).
“It’s really about just trying to be more consistent with the bats,” Berryhill said. “Anybody in our lineup can drive one out of here at any moment. It’s more focusing on base hits and let the home runs come if they do.”
South Carolina faces Charleston Southern at 7 p.m. Tuesday in North Augusta at SRP Park, home of the Augusta GreenJackets. That game will be streamed digitally through SEC Network Plus.
The No. 15 South Carolina softball team swept a two-game series against UNC Greensboro on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (34-12) won 6-3 and 9-4 at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field in the final non-conference games of the 2019 season. USC closes out the regular season with a home series against Georgia and a road series at Missouri.
Dixie Raley (11-3) and Cayla Drotar (10-5) earned wins in the circle for the Gamecocks on Saturday. Karly Heath was 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs in the first game. Katie Prebble had a home run and drove in three runs in the finale.
South Carolina has a five-game winning streak and has won nine of its last 11 games.