**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jeff Owens**
Through four innings of Thursday's all-important game against Missouri in the SEC Tournament, South Carolina starting pitcher Wil Crowe was sitting at 91 pitches.
However, knowing that his team desperately needed a lengthy outing from him to conserve the bullpen, the fourth-year junior buckled down and squeezed out two more innings.
Crowe gave up just one run on four hits in six innings pitched while throwing 122 pitches in the 10-2 South Carolina win.
"I knew we had a few guys that had thrown some pitches early in the week, and I needed to go out and give them six or seven innings," Crowe said. "I just tried to pitch to contact and let my defense work. We've got a great defense, and was just doing everything I could to keep the ball down."
Crowe labored through the first four innings, but Missouri had just one run to show for it, thanks to clutch pitches by Crowe. The Tigers had a runner at third with two outs in the second, and Crowe struck out Brett Bond to end the frame. It was even tighter in the third inning. With two outs, the Tigers strung together a walk, single and another walk to load the bases. Facing Bond again, Crowe registered another huge strikeout to keep Missouri off the board.
Crowe ran into some more trouble in the fourth inning. A ball dropped into left field for a leadoff double, After a one-out walk, Alex Samples drilled a double off the top of the wall in left to drive in the first Tiger run. With the tying runs in scoring position, Crowe coaxed a popup from Matt Berler and struck out Connor Brumfield to slam the door shut.
Carlos Cortes' first three-run homer in the very next inning gave Crowe all the run support he would need.
"Any time you can get out of the inning without more than one run is huge for your team," Crowe said. "It puts confidence in our hitters and gives them another opportunity when we still have the lead, so that's huge for us.
"He has a way of pitching his best in very important spots," head coach Chad Holbrook added. "He showed composure today when the game was in the balance there. Got us out of that jam, and then we caught our breath and put some runs up on the board."
Thursday's performance very well could've been the last one for Crowe in a Gamecock uniform. He's expected to be a high draft pick in June's MLB Draft and has already graduated from the University of South Carolina.
Regardless of what happens with the NCAA Tournament, Crowe will always have a huge fan in Holbrook. Crowe turned down more than a million dollars to come to college in the first place, and again stayed at school after undergoing Tommy John surgery during his sophomore season.
He could have left the team to start a professional journey, but wanted to finish what he started. On Thursday, he put in a gutty performance that helped keep the Gamecocks alive in the SEC Tournament.
"Wil was terrific," Holbrook said. "He's been the leader of our team and program for a number of years now. He's a special player in my book because he could've signed after his injury, but he didn't want to end his career at South Carolina on that note. I'm glad he came back and led our team and had that moment today in the SEC Tournament. He pitched really well."