** Story by Willie T. Smith III/Photo by Allen Sharpe**
South Carolina had an opportunity to claim a potential knockout punch against Alabama early in the first of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Founders Park.
But, after scoring two, the Gamecocks failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the first inning.
That proved to be the determining factor as SC dropped a 4-2 decision to the Crimson Tide in front of a crowd of 6,727.
“We had their really good pitcher on the ropes there in the first inning with the bases loaded and no outs with two runs in,” said SC coach Chad Holbrook. “He made some good pitches and got out of it.
“We couldn’t scratch again. That, obviously came back to get us.”
Alabama starter Jake Walters (4-2) gave up four Gamecock hits in the initial inning, but allowed only one more hit during his 5.1 innings.
Carolina did not fare any better against reliever Garrett Suchey, who gave up only one hit while striking out five the rest of the way.
That turned out to be enough for Alabama to earn its first SEC victory of the season after dropping three to Missouri a week earlier.
South Carolina starter Adam Hill (1-3) had a solid outing in his second straight Friday night start, but was touched for a solo home run by Crimson Tide first baseman Cody Henry in the third and a two-run shot by left fielder Chandler Taylor an inning later.
Alabama added a run in the ninth, but it wasn’t needed as the Gamecocks were unable to mount a threat the rest of the way.
“He made some really good pitches with his back against the wall,” Holbrook said of Walters. “But we’ve got to find a way to score another run with the bases loaded and nobody out.”
Hill pitched well, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk, while striking out nine, which was a personal season high.
“I felt good, felt like my stuff was pretty good,” Hill said. “There were a couple pitches that came back to bite me. From a stuff standpoint I felt like everything was working pretty well.
“My command was a little bit off but, from a stuff standpoint I felt like everything was working the way I wanted.”
The loss dropped USC to 15-6 overall and was the team’s first defeat in SEC play after sweeping Tennessee on the road a week ago.
“We pitched well enough to win,” said Holbrook. “They kept us in the game. Adam (and relievers) Reed (Scott) and Colie (Bowers) were fine. To give up four runs on a Friday night in this league you’ve got to find a way to win.
“We just weren’t good enough tonight, offensively. Their pitchers had a lot to do with that.”
The Gamecocks and Crimson Tide return to action Saturday at 4 p.m. Sophomore left-hander Dylan Duarte (1-1, 2.78) will start for Alabama, while SC will counter with junior right-hander Wil Crowe (3-0, 2.73).