Crowe’s season-ending injury deals struggling Gamecocks another blow

Wil Crowe, whose 59 strikeouts ranked sixth-best in the SEC, will miss the rest of USC's season with an elbow injury. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

A struggling South Carolina baseball team was dealt another blow Tuesday, when its top starting pitcher was lost for the remainder of the season with an elbow injury.

Sophomore right-hander Wil Crowe has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, USC announced, and will undergo surgery at a date to be determined. An MRI revealed the damage after he was hit for seven earned runs in 4.1 innings in his last start, at Florida on Friday. Crowe was USC’s leadoff pitcher in SEC series, compiling a 3-4 record, 4.91 earned run average, and 59 strikeouts over 51.1 innings pitched.

Crowe had been USC’s most dependable starting pitcher, striking out 10 in March victories over Kentucky and College of Charleston, and dropping one-run decisions to Georgia and Missouri. Something seemed amiss with the Sevierville, Tenn., native in his past two starts, which included eight runs allowed in 2.2 innings at Mississippi State before the drubbing at Florida.

With Crowe out, junior left-hander Jack Wynkoop (4-4, 3.20) would seem the leading candidate to move into that role of top series starter. It gets more complicated for USC at the back end of the SEC rotation, where the Gamecocks have already used several different arms — such as Josh Reagan, Clarke Schmidt and Taylor Widener — attempting to secure that third spot.

There’s very little time to figure it out. USC plays Presbyterian on Tuesday night before No. 5 Vanderbilt (28-9, 11-4 SEC) arrives for a three-game series beginning Thursday at 7:30 p.m. SEC Network’s “Paul Finebaum Show” and “SEC Now” will both broadcast at Carolina Stadium on Friday, prior to the 7 p.m. second game between teams that won three of the last five national championships.

South Carolina (23-14, 6-9) hardly looked like a national contender last weekend at Florida, losing three games by a combined score of 38-10. USC dropped its fourth consecutive SEC series since an opening sweep of Kentucky, and perhaps further jeopardized its five-year streak of hosting NCAA Regional play. The Gamecocks have not missed the NCAA Tournament since 1999.