**Story by Jeff Owens/Photos by Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dillworth**
Chad Holbrook saw something Sunday he has rarely seen in all his years of coaching college baseball.
His starting pitcher, Adam Hill, gave up just one hit and struck out seven in seven magnificent innings. Relief pitcher Josh Reagan finished it off with three strikeouts and just one walk in two innings.
Yet, despite allowing just one hit, the No. 4 Gamecocks lost, dropping Game 3 of its opening weekend series against UNC Greensboro 1-0.
Hill, the Gamecocks' No. 3 starter, gave up only a first-inning hit and retired 17 straight batters at one point. His only mistake was a leadoff walk in the third that UNCG parlayed into a run after a stolen base, a passed ball and a RBI groundout.
The Spartans made the run hold up as the Gamecocks managed just four hits against UNCG starter Matt Frisbee and the bullpen.
"I don't know if I have been involved in one of those where we give up one hit and find a way to lose the game," Holbrook said. "The balls that we did hit seemed to be right at 'em."
The Gamecocks had their chances, but they were few and far between. Danny Blair, South Carolina's best hitter during the weekend, singled to lead off the fourth, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error. He was stranded when Alex Destino struck out and John Jones popped up.
Madison Stokes led off the fourth with a single, but the bottom of the lineup could not move him around. In the eighth, LT Tolbert led off with a single and moved to second on Jonah Bride's sacrifice bunt, but Blair hit into a double play to end the inning.
Destino, Chris Cullen and Madison Stokes went down in order in the ninth to end it.
"We squared some balls up, we just didn't have success with them. I'm a hundred percent OK with that, and I'm sure coach Holbrook is, too," Stokes said.
"It's disappointing, one-run game and we couldn't string together any hits," said Blair, who was 6-for-11 in the three-game series. "The opposing pitchers did a good job getting ahead, but when you can't string together hits and hit with guys in scoring position, it's going to be tough to win."
Jacob Olson also had a strong series for the Gamecocks, going 4-for-9, and almost tied it in the third when the wind held up a deep fly ball to left. He also flied out to the deepest part of the ballpark in the seventh.
"With the wind blowing the way it was, you have to absolutely kill it, and he was just short of killing it," Holbrook said. "That's just the kind of day it was."
The bright spot for South Carolina was the pitching. Expected to be a strength of the team, Gamecock pitchers gave up just 10 hits and one earned run during the series, with 27 strikeouts. Starters Clarke Schmidt, Will Crowe and Hill gave up just seven hits and had 17 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.
"Really proud of our pitching staff. They were terrific all weekend long," Holbrook said.
Hill, a sophomore who went 7-0 as a freshman last year, held up his end of the bargain with perhaps the best start of his career. If not for the walk and passed ball, he would have held one of the best hitting teams in the country last year scoreless.
"He settled in and threw like Adam Hill," Holbrook said. "He located his fastball really well and located his curveball. They are a good hitting team, but our pitching staff was phenomenal all weekend long. We've got to give them a little bit more support going forward."
Thanks to the stagnant offense, Hill was saddled with a loss and left the game lamenting the third-inning walk he gave up.
"It's something I've got to clean up. I've got to be better than that," Hill said. "I can't walk that guy. If I don't walk that guy, it's a tie game."
"We kinda gave them a run. I didn't think it would hold up, but it did," Holbrook said. "It's a fine line in a game like this."
Despite the loss, South Carolina won two of three from an experienced team that finished 38-21 last year and is picked to win the Southern Conference.
"They are a really, really good team," Holbrook said. "Coming into this series, out of the respect I have for their team and where I think they are and how old they are and the type of club they have, I would have taken the series win. That being said, you want to play better on Sunday when you have a chance to do something special and we didn't do enough offensively."
That will be Holbrook's focus on Monday. The Gamecocks play UNC Charlotte at 4 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Kansas State on Thursday and a three-game series against Wright State next weekend.
"We did some really good things," he said. "I'm still trying to figure out who we are offensively and put people in the right places and get a little bit more balance in our lineup. That's coming. We've got good players who can swing the bat, we've just got to kinda relax and be who we are. Over time, that is going to come."