The Diamond Dawgs plated a pair of ninth-inning runs but could not muster enough offense to overtake No. 7 South Carolina. The Gamecocks won the final game of the weekend series 6-4 at Carolina Stadium.
MSU suffered its first sweep of the conference schedule. The Bulldogs fell to 21-15 overall and 5-10 in league play, while the two-time defending national champion Gamecocks improved to 27-10 and 8-7.
South Carolina won all three games by a total of five runs. The Bulldogs have now lost three conference road games by a single score and another pair by two runs apiece.
"We had more quality at-bats and hit more balls hard (than South Carolina)," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "However, our balls were not falling. This game was a repeat of the entire weekend. It is symbolic of how season is going. We are close."
The Bulldogs received another strong pitching start. In his first start of 2012, Evan Mitchell (1-1) was lifted with one out in the fifth inning. The Gamecocks would in the process of scoring three times in that frame to erase a 2-1 deficit.
MSU had grabbed the lead by scoring twice in the top half of the inning. Mitch Slauter started things with a one-out single. Hunter Renfroe followed with a double. Back-to-back ground balls plated both scores.
In the USC half of the fifth inning, Mitchell was lifted after one walk and two hits loaded the bases. An error, a ground ball out and an RBI-single by Adam Matthew moved the Gamecocks into a 4-2 advantage.
The Gamecocks plated two critical insurance scores in the eighth inning. Reliever Taylor Stark was touched for a walk, double and two-run single by Joey Pankake in that at-bat.
MSU had one last threat in the ninth inning. Daryl Norris singled and Trey Porter doubled to start the at-bat. An RBI-single by Slauter scored one run. A ground ball out scored another. The Bulldogs stranded runners at second and third base when Sam Frost hit a deep fly ball to right field to end the contest.
The Bulldogs finished with eight hits, including multiple hits by C.T. Bradford, Slauter and Renfroe. Bradford collected his 100th career hit in the contest.
The Gamecocks finished with 11 hits, including three hits by Evan Marzilli. Chase Vergason, Pankake and Matthew each added multiple hits.
Colby Holmes (5-0) allowed eight hits and four runs (all earned) in 8.1 innings of work to earn the win. Tyler Webb got his second save.
At the midway mark of the conference season, the Bulldogs look forward to returning to full health and hosting conference series in three of the final five weekends.
"We have three series at home, I really believe in this group of guys," Cohen said. "Their attitude is awesome. It is tough to watch kids give it their all when they really can't move. I will back these guys 100 percent. They are part of some outstanding recruiting classes.
"We had to out-recruit the LSUs, Auburns and Floridas of the world to sign these kids. We have had had some back luck. But I really like how the schedule matches up. As we get healthy again, we should be able to do some damage in the second half of the season."
The Bulldogs next head to Pearl for a Tuesday night Governor's Cup matchup with Ole Miss. Game time is 6:30 p.m. at Trustmark Park. The contest will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.
Thursday, the Bulldogs return to SEC play with the opening-game of a three-game Super Bulldog Weekend Series with Tennessee. Fans are encouraged to wear white for the contest, which will be televised nationally by ESPNU as part of its Thursday Night SEC Game of the Week package.
Grandstand seating will be open to all who attend the game Thursday night. However, regular season ticket holders will have first claim to their seats.