COLUMBIA — It wasn’t much, just a chip shot that barely cleared the infield dirt. But it fell in the no-man’s land between second base and right field, and was enough to help South Carolina sweep the season series from The Citadel.
Jordan Gore’s bases-loaded single in the third inning dropped between two outstretched arms in short right, driving in three runs and propelling USC to a 4-2 victory over the Bulldogs Wednesday night at Carolina Stadium. It was the third straight win for the Gamecocks, their longest streak since winning 10 in a row in March.
“We were lucky to have won that game,” said USC head coach Chad Holbrook. “Probably, quite honestly, didn’t deserve it.”
Solo homers by Austin Mapes and William Kinney staked the Bulldogs to an early lead, but they were the only runs allowed by a Gamecocks staff which struck out 14. USC loaded the bases in the third on a single and two walks, and with two out Gore’s blooper landed in short right to put South Carolina ahead. Madison Stokes followed with a run-scoring single.
“I didn’t think it was dropping at all, to be honest with you,” Gore said. “I thought we were out of the inning, bases loaded, and that would have really (stunk).”
Citadel head coach Fred Jordan could just shake his head. “That’s baseball,” he said. “It’s two outs, and they’re running on contact. It dropped in there, and then you’ve got to credit their pitching staff.”
Holbrook said Citadel’s outfielders were likely playing deep because the wind was blowing out. And yet, “I didn’t think that would fall,” he said. “I thought that would be routine.”
USC’s winning streak comes on the heels of a 3-8 stretch that included five one-run losses and knocked the Gamecocks (23-11) out of the Baseball America top 25. Wednesday’s loss was the third straight for The Citadel (15-16), which fell to USC 2-0 in Charleston on March 31.
“Our bullpen’s got to throw strikes in conference play like they did tonight,” Jordan said. “Hopefully, that will set up the weekend for us out of our bullpen.”
Both teams now return to the conference play. The Citadel hosts Wofford in a SoCon series opening Friday at Riley Park, while the Gamecocks travel to No. 10 Florida for a three-game set before hosting No. 1 Vanderbilt next weekend.
“I think we have a lot of momentum going into Florida,” said pitcher Clarke Schmidt. “I think things are going to start falling our way. If we can just keep competing, I think we’ll be good.”