COLUMBIA - With a four-run lead and just one out from victory, Charleston Southern coach Stuart Lake had every reason to be comfortable as he stood in the visitor dugout at Carolina Stadium.
But South Carolina, a team that has pulled off several late-inning miracles inside its home park this season, was at bat in the ninth inning. So Lake admitted he was "scared to death" until he saw his team record the 27th out.
"I'm a Gamecock guy, and I follow them every day," said Lake, a former South Carolina assistant. "So I'm thinking, 'Holy cow.' You can't get them out."
There were nerves and tension, but the Buccaneers did what many opponents - Ole Miss and Tennessee among them - have failed to do this season. They shut the door on the No. 11 Gamecocks in the ninth inning, winning 4-1.
It was the first non-conference loss for South Carolina (28-8), which fell to 23-4 at home and 20-1 in games played against non-SEC opponents. The Gamecocks have now lost three straight games for the first time this season.
CSU (19-20) has won three of its past four games, recovering from a six-game losing streak earlier this month.
South Carolina was playing without four starters, but Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook said that was "an excuse" he didn't want to hear. Junior catcher Grayson Greiner and first baseman Kyle Martin - USC's top RBI producer and hitter for average, respectfully - were in the lineup and combined to finish 1-of-8 at the plate.
"They were clearly the better team tonight," Holbrook said. "They out-competed us, they out-hustled us, they out-scrapped us. They out-everythinged us tonight.
"Happy for Stuart Lake. He's a great guy, been part of this program for a long time. I know that was a meaningful game and a meaningful win for him. So my hat's off to him."
Using two pitchers, CSU held South Carolina hitless into the fifth inning and scoreless into the ninth. After Buccaneers junior Denis Buckley struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth, three straight Gamecocks reached base safely. USC scored its first run on freshman Jordan Gore's RBI single, scoring Patrick Harrington.
Lake said he wanted Buckley to finish the game, but with the tying run at the plate he pulled the junior. CSU junior Austin Weekly struck out USC center fielder Tanner English to end the game.
"We were playing just a great South Carolina team," Lake said. "That's the only way we're going to beat them. You almost have to be flawless, and still scared to death there in the ninth inning. They're that good."
Buckley pitched 6 2/3 innings in relief, allowing six hits and one run with six strikeouts and just one walk. Center fielder Bobby Ison - who Holbrook called "the best player on the field tonight, without a doubt" - was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Third baseman Alex Tomasovich was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one run scored.
South Carolina was led by Elliott Caldwell, the only player in its lineup to have multiple hits. Junior Evan Beal received the loss, allowing five hits and three runs in 2 1/3 innings.
South Carolina plays at The Citadel on Wednesday. First pitch is 7 p.m.