No. 2 SOUTH CAROLINA 13, MISS. ST. 4
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner called Sunday's game against Mississippi State a "fork in the road" moment.
Playing without two regular starters in outfielders Jackie Bradley and Evan Marzilli, South Carolina still beat Mississippi State, 13-4, to win the Southeastern Conference series.
The win, propelled by John Taylor's four-inning relief appearance, keeps the second-ranked Gamecocks (31-8, 14-4 SEC) tied for first place in the East with Vanderbilt and Florida."You can go one way or the other," Tanner said.
"We had every reason in the world not to be able to win. We had some guys injured, we were thin.
"Our opening day outfield: two were on the bench and one was in Columbia. We were challenged, but we can battle our rear ends off and get in a
position to win."
Jake Williams and Christian Walker had four hits apiece for USC while designated hitter Brady Thomas had three hits and four RBIs as the Gamecocks forced Mississippi State (24-16, 7-11) to use six pitchers.
Walker's big performance was capped by a two-run home run to left in the top of the ninth inning. Walker was 10-for-11 with four walks in the series thanks to some extra prep work on the bus ride from Columbia to Starkville.
"The coaches went over a few things on film," Walker said. "It wasn't anything to serious, but a little thing here and there and it made a difference."
South Carolina took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI triple by Peter Mooney and a sacrifice fly by Walker. Mississippi State then rallied for three runs in the third inning off USC pitcher Forrest
Koumas, who was pulled with two outs in the inning for Taylor.
Taylor (3-1) went on to allow one earned run in four innings, the longest outing of his career. It came the day after Taylor was charged with the loss in Saturday's game after his throwing error allowed two runs to score.
Taylor was relieved in the seventh inning by Matt Price, who struck out four batters in 2 1/3 innings.
"(The coaching staff) told me to go to the pen early because Price hadn't thrown all weekend and they wanted to get him some innings," Taylor said. "I was just ready to go in and do my job."
DeSean Anderson and Steven Neff played in center and left field, respectively, in place of Bradley and Marzilli. Anderson was 3 for 4 at the plate.
"We can make an excuse and say 'we have two guys out, we expect to lose,' " Williams said. "Or we can handle the adversity and win no matter what."
The Gamecocks will play host to Liberty at 1 p.m. Tuesday before a three-game home SEC series against Auburn.