A crowd of 6,500 - the largest ever to watch a college baseball game at Riley Park - saw two teams struggling with their confidence Wednesday night.
After 31/2 hours, 18 runs, 19 hits, seven errors, four home runs, 18 walks and 14 pitchers, The Citadel emerged with a 10-8 victory over No. 11 South Carolina and increased hopes for turning around a disappointing season.
Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook emerged with a fourth-straight loss and fresh worries about his injury-depleted team.
"I'm certainly very concerned," said Holbrook, whose team was beaten 4-1 by Charleston Southern on Tuesday night in Columbia. "We're 28-9, so it ain't the end of the world. But I'd be the first to say some of our guys' confidence is shaken a little bit, and I don't have all the answers."
The Gamecocks were without regulars Connor Bright (elbow), Joey Pankake (hamstring) and Marcus Mooney (concussion), and third baseman Max Schrock was pulled after two at-bats Wednesday because of a sore back.
Mooney won't play in this weekend's series at Auburn, and it doesn't sound good for Bright (a Wando High School product hitting .336) or Schrock, either. Pankake did take batting practice Wednesday.
"Max might not be with us the rest of the year," Holbrook said. "Connor's situation could be a long period of time, too."
Against Charleston Southern and The Citadel, the Gamecocks did not play well enough to overcome those injuries.
"When you are shorthanded, you've got to play crisp, clean baseball," said Holbrook, whose team made three errors, a key base-running mistake and lost a fly ball in the twilight sky to allow two runs to score. "We didn't do that tonight. But credit The Citadel. They swung the bats extremely well and knocked us around on the mound. They certainly deserved to win."
Bulldogs second baseman Mason Davis had three hits, scored three times and belted a seventh-inning home run, his first of the season, for a 9-7 lead. Drew DeKerlegand also hit a home run and Tyler Griffin drove in three runs as the 15-23 Bulldogs racked up 12 hits in their first win over USC since April 12, 2011.
Coach Fred Jordan hopes it's the boost the Bulldogs need to reverse a 2-13 start in Southern Conference play.
"I hope this will get them going, because we still have a lot of baseball left to play," said Jordan, whose team resumes SoCon play at Western Carolina this weekend. "Our alumni enjoy (beating USC) a whole lot more than I do. I'd rather beat Western Carolina two out of three.
"This game's about confidence, and for the first time in a month when we had the lead, we didn't panic when someone pressed us. We just came back in and swung the bats."
Citadel starter Austin Livingston (2-4) entered the game with a 1-4 record and an earned-run average of 8.39, but made it through five innings with an 8-5 lead, allowing four earned runs on three hits, four walks and a career-best eight strikeouts.
Reliever David Rivera got the through the eighth with help of a base-running blunder by USC's Kyle Martin, and closer Skyler Hunter worked the ninth for his seventh save. Matthew Vogel (0-1), the first of seven USC pitchers, took the loss.
Brison Celek, a Bishop England product, hit his first homer of the season for the Gamecocks, a solo shot to left in the sixth to make the score 8-6. DC Arendas hit his fourth homer of the year, a solo blast in the second.
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the third for a 5-2 lead with plenty of help from the Gamecocks. An error by second baseman Jordan Gore, a single from Davis and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Starting pitcher Vogel walked in one run, and reliever Vince Fiori walked in another before he had to leave with a strain in his left side.
Citadel pinch-hitter Connor Walsh greeted USC's third pitcher, Curt Britt, with a routine fly ball to left-center. Neither center fielder Tanner English nor Elliott Caldwell in left could find the ball against the twilight sky, and it fell safely for a two-run single and a 5-2 Citadel lead.
The Bulldogs padded their lead to 6-2 in the fourth with a bloop single by Calvin Orth, an error and Davis' sacrifice fly to deep center.
USC scored three times in the fifth to chop the lead to 6-5 on two walks, a two-run double by Martin and Grayson Greiner's sac fly. But The Citadel's DeKerlegand crushed a homer to right, his second of the season, and Ryan Killgallen added an RBI single for an 8-5 lead in the bottom of the inning.