**Story by Jeff Owens/Photo by Jenny Dilworth**
South Carolina seemingly had everything going its way in Game 2 against rival Clemson Saturday.
A strong outing from starter Will Crowe. A 5-2 lead going into the seventh. A one-run lead when coach Chad Holbrook called on closer Tyler Johnson in the eighth.
The Gamecocks even banged out a season-high 12 hits, including five extra-base hits.
But it was not enough to hold off a strong-hitting Clemson team, which put up six runs against the South Carolina bullpen to rally for a dramatic 8-7 win before a record crowd of 7,460 fans at Fluor Field in Greenville.
"It was a game that we felt like through six innings we were kinda in control of, and then you have to give credit to Clemson," Holbrook said. "They really had some good at-bats there and we gave them some free passes and they capitalized in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
"You can't do that against a really good hitting team."
South Carolina (7-4) got some big breaks on Friday night in Clemson — a two-run error by Clemson, a run-saving catch in the outfield to end the game — to win Game 1 2-0.
The breaks went against them in Greenville. Johnson, who got a save Friday night, gave up the tying run in the eighth before leaving with a sore arm. Reed Scott promptly gave up a home run that put Clemson ahead in the ninth.
Jacob Olson got thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the ninth after driving in a run with a double off the wall. And Alex Destino, the team's leading RBI man, took a called third strike to end the game with the tying run on second.
"We had good fortune last night, maybe we didn't have good fortune today. That's baseball," Holbrook said. "We will try to make some good fortune tomorrow."
Starter Will Crowe gave up a two-run homer in the first to Seth Beer, but settled down after that and allowed just one hit over the next five innings, retiring 14 straight batters at one point.
"Will gave us a great outing and gave us a chance to win," Holbrook said.
Crowe had a 5-2 lead when he walked Robert Jolly to start the seventh. Andrew Cox then doubled home a run and Cox scored on a single by Weston Jackson to cut the lead to 5-4.
Still, the game seemed in hand with Johnson taking the hill to start the eighth. But he gave up a leadoff triple to Reed Rohlman. After striking out Beer on a 98-mph fastball, Chase Pinder singled to tie the game. Johnson got another strikeout and a flyout to end the inning. He left with his arm hurting with one out in the ninth.
"Tyler was just a little sore," Holbrook said. "He felt good in the bullpen and we put him out there and he got a little sore."
Holbrook said he had no reservations about going with his hard-throwing closer in the eighth, a night after he closed out the game at Clemson. Josh Reagan, the Gamecocks' ace left-hander, pitched two innings Friday night and was not available.
"He's our closer. We're trying to win the series," Holbrook said. "He's done it before. We're up a run and he's our guy. I will make that decision every time."
Johnson left the game with a 2-0 count on No. 9 hitter Patrick Cromwell. Scott relieved him but on the first pitch, Cromwell homered to right to put Clemson ahead. The Tigers scored two more runs on two hits and a walk to take an 8-5 lead.
The Gamecocks rallied in the ninth. TJ Hopkins walked to lead off the inning and Matt Williams singled to put runners at first and third. Olson then blasted a double off the left-field wall to score a run and put runners at second and third with just one out.
Jonah Bride then hit a hot ground ball that the Clemson third baseman could not handle. Williams scored, but Olson was thrown out at the plate by Beer in left. Destino then struck out to end the game.
"It was a tough play and a tough call for coach," Holbrook said of the decision to send Olson home on the error. "I would have sent him every time, too. You have to try to tie the game and win the game. … We tried to make a play and they made a good throw and a good tag."
Clemson's Beer, the 2016 national player of the year, put the Tigers on the board early with a towering home run over the right field wall. The ball traveled an estimated 425 feet.
With Crowe settling down on the mound, the Gamecocks chipped away at Clemson's lead and delivered some bombs of their own. Justin Row tripled off the wall in left in the first and scored on Bride's RBI single.
South Carolina loaded the bases in the fourth when Destino singled, Madison Stokes reached on catcher's interference and Danny Blair singled. Destino scored on a sac fly by Hopkins to the tie the game.
The Gamecocks went ahead on two big blows in the sixth. Olson tripled off the 420 sign in center field and Bride launched a drive into the second row on top of the Green Monster at Fluor Field for his first home run of the season.
South Carolina added a run in the sixth when Hunter Taylor doubled off the wall in center and scored on a single by Blair and a Clemson throwing error.
Holbrook was pleased with the way his team swung the bats on Saturday.
"That was more who we are. We battled and we competed and had some extra-base hits," he said. "… (But) we still need some of our better hitters to have a little bit tougher at-bats, tougher outs. Right now we have some guys who we are counting on scuffling a little bit."
Despite the loss, the Gamecocks return home Sunday with a chance to win the Clemson series for the first time in three years.
"That would be big," Bride said. "We feel confident going home and playing in front of our fans. We just have to do what we did today, keep battling and fighting to win."
"We have won one and lost one in this series and we get to go play at home," Holbrook said. "That's the message to my team. We have a great opportunity in front of us tomorrow."