Bucs can’t capitalize against Liberty in series opener, 3-1

Charleston Southern outhit defending Big South champion Liberty 10-6 and three Buccaneer pitchers combined to strike out 14 batters, but Liberty snuck out of CSU Ballpark with a 3-1 win on Thursday night.

Liberty (19-10, 5-2 Big South) made two runs from a third-inning home run by Will Shepherd stand up to win the series opener. The Bucs left 12 runners on base and were just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position in the game.

CSU (12-15, 3-4) starter Andrew Tomasovich ( 4-3) struck out 11 in 7.2 innings, allowing only four hits. His sole blemish was Shepherd’s blast in the third. Relievers Chayce Hubbard and Denis Buckley added three more strikeouts to the Bucs’ season-high total for nine innings.

The Bucs made things interesting in the late innings. Sam Remick scored Nate Blanchard on an infield single in the eighth to cut the lead to 2-1. CSU pushed the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position with two outs, but Flames’ closer Alex Close got Brian Dye to ground out to end the threat.

Liberty added a key insurance run in the ninth. Nick Paxton singled home Becker Sankey off of Buckley to push the lead to its final margin.

Liberty starter Shawn Clowers (7-1) scattered nine hits and three walks, allowing just one run. He struck out five and recorded 14 ground-ball outs.

Close finished 2-for-3 with a run scored and the save.

Four Bucs had a multi-hit game. Remick and Chase Shelton both had three hits. Shelton was 3-for-5 and scored the Bucs only run.

Mississippi State (20-14, 4-6 SEC) tallied 12 hits and broke out to an eight-run lead in the first three innings on the way to a win over 18th-ranked South Carolina (20-10, 5-5) on Thursday night at Dudy Noble Field.

Due to the threat of inclement weather, Friday’s game has been moved up to 4 p.m. ET.

MSU starter Lucas Laster (4-1) pitched a complete game to earn the win. He allowed two runs on eight hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. Gamecock right-hander Wil Crowe (3-3) suffered the loss. Crowe allowed eight runs, six earned, on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 2.2 innings of work.

A pair of Gamecock errors allowed Mississippi State to jump out in front 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning. A deep fly to left-center off the bat of Cody Brown went off the glove of Gene Cone, allowing Brown to reach second base. He scored on Jake Vickerson’s double down the right-field line. With one out and runners on first and second base, Jacob Robson knocked a ball up the middle. On the play, Max Schrock threw to Jordan Gore for the force, who then threw a little low to first base. As the ball got away from Kyle Martin at first base, Vickerson scored to give the Bulldogs a two-run lead.

Mississippi State batted around in the third inning to take an 8-0 lead. Vickerson led off the frame with his second double of the game. With one out, he scored on a wild pitch. After MSU loaded the bases, Robson drove in a run with a RBI single followed up by a three-run double from John Holland. A two-out single from Cody Brown gave the Bulldogs an eight-run cushion.

Carolina got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth as Martin led off with a double and advanced on a pair of wild pitches to score. South Carolina added a run in the sixth with Max Schrock leading off with a single and scoring on a two-out RBI double of the bat of DC Arendas.

Mississippi State would add a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, two more in the seventh and one in the eighth to complete the scoring.