**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**
South Carolina was off to a great start against Georgia on Friday, leading 2-0 entering the fifth inning. However, one swing of the bat by the Bulldogs' Keegan McGovern wiped out that lead, and the Gamecocks never fully recovered.
They tried their best, however, scoring two runs in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to just one run. However, Georgia was able to get the final out and walked away with a 5-4 victory over South Carolina to clinch the series and deal perhaps a fatal blow to the Gamecocks' postseason hopes.
"I told our team I was proud of them for leaving it on the field and giving ourselves a chance to win," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "We had a couple chances to win it, but it just didn't fall for us. I feel for our players. We didn't do enough in the first eight (innings)."
South Carolina had two runners reach base in five straight innings from the fourth through the eighth, but no runs to show for it. There were two inning-ending double plays during that stretch. Overall, the Gamecocks left 14 men on base in the defeat.
"At the end of the day, you have to get a big hit or make a big pitch," Holbrook said. "We didn't get that big hit. We pitched well enough to win, but (Georgia) got a big hit when the bases were loaded, and we didn't get a big hit when people were out there. Ultimately, that was the difference in the game."
Riley Hogan got the Gamecocks (31-23, 12-17 SEC) started in the second inning with a leadoff single. He shot the offering from Georgia's Kevin Smith right back up the middle before Alex Destino sacrificed him to second base. A groundout moved Hogan to third, and TJ Hopkins sprayed an opposite field single to score Hogan and give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead.
The Gamecocks have struggled with situational hitting all season long, but were excellent in the third inning Friday against the Bulldogs. Justin Row led off the frame with a double, and advanced to third on LT Tolbert's swinging bunt. Jonah Bride's grounder to second then scored Row to give South Carolina a 2-0 lead.
After holding the Bulldogs (25-30, 11-18 SEC) off the board for the first four innings, starting pitcher Adam Hill ran out of gas in the fifth inning. A couple of singles and a four-pitch walk loaded the bases with one out, and the sophomore was replaced by senior Josh Reagan.
Hill pitched well for the most part, really buckling down in the fourth. With two on with just one out, Hill recorded back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning.
"Adam just wasn't very efficient," Holbrook said. "His pitch count was awfully high."
Reagan got ahead in the count on his first batter, McGovern, but couldn't close him out. McGovern blasted a bases clearing three-run double that quickly gave Georgia a 3-2 lead halfway through the game. Reagan was able to recover and strike out the final two batters of the frame to limit the damage, though.
South Carolina had a great chance to take back the lead in the sixth, but faltered. With one out, Jacob Olson singled and Hopkins reached on an error, and with two outs Row was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The Gamecocks had their best hitter, Tolbert, up at the plate, but he hit one right back at the pitcher to end the inning.
The Bulldogs would tack on another run in the very next inning. They got the first two batters of the seventh aboard, and a double steal moved them both in scoring position. McGovern's RBI groundout plated one run to make it 4-2, but Reagan did a nice job of limiting the damage to just one run.
Georgia would add one more run in the eighth to make it 5-2, and that proved to be an important run. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Carlos Cortes laid down a bunt single against the shift to reach base. Matt Williams struck out swinging for the second out, but Cortes stole second on the play. Destino then laid down another bunt single against the shift to put two runners on. Olson's single made it 5-3 and Hopkins' bloop double cut the deficit to 5-4. A walk loaded the bases, and South Carolina was potentially a single away from walking off against the Bulldogs.
However, Row flew out to center to end the game, and the junior slammed his helmet to the ground in disgust.
"Obviously today sucked," Reagan said. "That was not the way we wanted it to go, but we have another game left, and if we keep winning, they'll keep letting us play. We have all the talent in the world, and coach Holbrook says it all the time that he's not going to give up on us until the last out is made. I think every one of us believes that."
The regular season finale will be Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m.