COLUMBIA - Grayson Greiner knew the situation called for aggressive base running.
There were two outs in the seventh inning. South Carolina trailed Alabama by a single run. Life had been squeezed from the Gamecocks lineup all afternoon.
So the junior catcher, not known to be swift of foot, didn't hesitate when he saw Tanner English's groundball escape the infield. Greiner rounded third base on a dead sprint, heading for home.
"I was just trying to score," he said.
It wasn't until the throw beat him by five steps that Greiner realized it was a bad idea.
On an offensively challenged day at the ballpark, Alabama catcher Wade Wass' tag of Greiner was the defining play. It helped clinch a 2-1 win for the No. 8 Crimson Tide (29-14, 13-7 SEC) before the second sellout in as many days at Carolina Stadium.
The statement-sending sweep is gone. No. 11 South Carolina (33-11, 11-9 SEC) will try to win the series when the rubber match begins 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.
South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook saw the tag out unfold from the dugout. Even with an inaccurate throw from Alabama left fielder Casey Hughston, the play at the plate wasn't close.
Regardless, Holbrook backed third base coach Sammy Esposito's decision to send Greiner.
"Here's how we play around here. When there's two outs and we get a hit, nine times out of 10 we're sending the runner," Holbrook said. "We make guys throw us out. We're trying to win the game. Tanner hit the ball right at (Hughston). Grayson's a catcher, he's not he fleetest of foot. That might've been our best chance to score that inning, and we took it.
"I've coached third base. That's not easy. If you make an error, we're going to make it trying to win the game. That's how we play here."
It was hard to argue with the decision, even if it did run South Carolina out of an inning. One day after scoring nine runs on 10 hits, the Gamecocks' lineup was silenced by Alabama starter Justin Kamplain and closer Thomas Burrows.
South Carolina had just five hits Saturday, ending a five-game streak with double-digit hits. Designated hitter Taylor Widener was the only Gamecocks player with multiple hits.
The lack of production spoiled a solid outing from South Carolina starter Jack Wynkoop (5-3). The sophomore left-hander received the loss despite allowing just two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
When he exited the game with the bases loaded in the seventh inning after allowing a go-ahead RBI single to Hughston, Wynkoop had only thrown 87 pitches. He said the pressure of a tight game didn't wear on him.
"I don't think it's a pressure thing at all," Wynkoop said. "We've been battling all year, so that's not a situation that I'm worried about with our team. My job is to go out there and try to put us in a position to win the game."
The loss set up arguably the biggest game of South Carolina's season, at least so far. The Gamecocks have lost two of their past three conference series. Another series defeat would represent a stunning tailspin for a program ranked No. 1 nationally in March.
Holbrook didn't hold back when he talked with his team after Saturday's loss.
"We're at home. I told the guys after the game, we're going to treat this like a super regional, do or die. Win or go home tomorrow," Holbrook said. "Heck, I told them if that makes them tight and they feel pressure, they came to the wrong baseball program to play ball. I believe that.
"It's an important game tomorrow. Does our season rest on it? No, but it's important. We're playing at home, and we should play with a sense of urgency and play with our hair on fire tomorrow. If we don't, I'll be disappointed."
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