COLUMBIA - Finally, Grayson Greiner's bat found solid contact with a pitch. South Carolina's catcher smashed a grounder up the middle, rocketing toward the outfield.
Except the baseball took a detour.
Greiner's grounder bounced off Maryland pitcher Bobby Ruse's feet, directly to first base. Bad luck, the inning-ending out killed another potential rally, the kind South Carolina built its season upon. As the teams turned for their dugouts in the seventh inning, a fan's frustrations boiled over.
"Unbelievable!" his shout sliced through the solemn nighttime air.
Thus epitomized the most unexpected, uncharacteristic of endings for a South Carolina baseball season. The top-seeded Gamecocks lost 10-1 to No. 2 Maryland in the NCAA Columbia Regional, snapping a streak of four straight NCAA super regional appearances.
The Terrapins will meet the winner of the Charlottesville Regional, where No. 3 national seed Virginia is the host. The Gamecocks will brace for the MLB Amateur Draft later this week and wonder how this season could collapse so fast.
"I mean, it (stinks)," junior center fielder Tanner English said. "We're done playing for the year. I think we definitely fell short of where we wanted to. Obviously, it's not going to be fun to lose like that, especially in that fashion at home in front of your own fans. So, yeah, it (stinks)."
Just Friday, South Carolina extended its postseason home winning streak to 28 games with a regional-opening win against Campbell. The streak had lasted 12 years. Now, the Gamecocks have lost consecutive home postseason games to the same opponent in 24 hours.
All season, South Carolina found a way to turn something positive out of impossible situations. The Gamecocks overcame injuries, shuffled lineups and slumps to host their fifth straight NCAA regional. Eventually, their luck ran out. At the end, there were only dead bats and bad bounces.
"Our guys, over the course of the season, gave me all they had," USC coach Chad Holbrook said. "They handled adversity, they represented this program the right way. . We just kind of ran out of gas there at the end."
South Carolina had a promising start to its evening.
A night after Maryland took a first-inning lead it never surrendered in a win over South Carolina, the Gamecocks took immediate control Sunday. Leadoff hitter Marcus Mooney scored from first on a double from first baseman Kyle Martin, giving USC a 1-0 lead. Terps coach John Szefc argued Mooney was tagged before touching home plate, but the call stood.
It looked like South Carolina was well on its way to forcing a final game Monday afternoon. Instead, the Gamecocks wouldn't score again.
Maryland came charging back in the middle innings. The Terrapins took the lead for good with a two-run fourth inning. They extended the lead, scoring in each of the next three innings, including two in the sixth.
Suddenly, South Carolina trailed by five runs, and Carolina Stadium was silent. Except for the sporadic shouts from frustrated fans.
"They just beat us tonight," Holbrook said. "You get beat 10-1 in your home park, you've gotta tip your cap to the opponent. They thoroughly outplayed us tonight. Our guys gave it all they had. We just couldn't get any momentum going there after the first inning from a run-production standpoint."
South Carolina tried everything to prolong its season another day. The Gamecocks started junior closer Joel Seddon, who was named second team All-SEC this season with 14 saves and a 0.83 ERA. Seddon, making his first start in more than a year, allowed eight hits and five runs in 51/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
"It wasn't too different," Seddon said. "I was a starter my whole life. Just this year I kind of got into the relief role, for the most part. So I was just trying to go out and go with all the confidence in the world, and keep us in it as long as I could."
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