Strong pitching, controversial calls lead Wright State over South Carolina

Strong pitching, controversial calls lead Wright State over South Carolina

**Story By Willie T. Smith**

South Carolina’s hopes of pulling off a sweep against 25th-ranked Wright State were stopped mostly by the efforts of Raiders starter Danny Sexton.

The junior left-hander wiggled his way out of some second-inning trouble to lead his team to a 5-1 victory in front of a Founders Park crowd of 7,138.

The loss dropped the fourth-ranked Gamecocks to 5-3 on the season.

“Congratulations to Wright State,” head coach Chad Holbrook said. “I think they have a terrific team. They played a better game today than we did, threw the ball well, kept us off balance the whole game.”

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Sexton allowed only one run on six hits and two walks during his seven-inning outing.

The lone run came in the second when South Carolina second baseman L.T. Tolbert singled to right field and advanced to second when Wright State outfielder Adrian Marquez bobbled the ball.

Third baseman Jonah Bride singled to center, scoring Tolbert and giving the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead.

That didn’t last long, however, when Raider second baseman Matt Morrow knocked a two-run homer over the right field fence. Morrow finished with four RBI on the day.

The score remained 2-1 until the fifth. With Wright State runners on first and second and one out, shortstop Kevin Whatley grounded to shortstop. He was originally called out following Madison Stokes throw to Riley Hogan at first.

After Raiders coach Jeff Mercer argued the call, first base umpire John Puma reversed the ruling, claiming Stokes throw pulled first baseman Hogan off the bag.

Wright State eventually loaded the bases and scored on a grounder between first and the pitcher’s mound by shortstop Kevin Whatley. South Carolina starter Adam Hill fielded the grounder and appeared to tag Whatley as he ran to first. Puma ruled Hill missed the tag. Holbrook ran onto the field to protest the call, which prompted a meeting by the umpire crew.

Following the discussion between the umpires, the call stood. Holbrook sprinted toward the field, but was waved off by second base umpire Richie Tallent. The Gamecock coach continued to make his way toward the field, but was ejected before he made it inside the foul lines.

“I thought I got him, but that was the call the umpire made so we had to play through it," Hill said.

The ejection was the third for Holbrook as South Carolina coach with one coming against Kentucky in 2014 and the other last season against Rhode Island.

“I’m not going to talk about the ejection,” Holbrook said. “It was in the heat of the moment. The umpires do a really, really good job. It is a hard game to umpire. It is a hard game to play and to coach.

“That’s all I’ll say about that.”

The loss dropped Hill to 0-2 on the season despite a 1.50 earned run average.

He thought the Gamecocks had a chance to rebound after allowing only one run in the fifth.

“I thought the momentum swung toward us after we got out of that big jam,” Hill said. “I don’t know. Their guy threw it well.”

Although the Gamecocks had only eight hits, with one going for extra bases, Holbrook remains confident in his team as it prepares for a Tuesday home game against Appalachian State before taking on Upstate rival Clemson at Clemson Friday, in Greenville Saturday and at home in Columbia Sunday.

“We’ve got to continue to get better,” Holbrook said. “We’ve got to improve in several areas, but the ceiling for our team is very high. … We’ll keep working.

“I’ve got good kids. We’ll try to do our best to keep winning games, winning series and putting ourselves in the best situation we can put ourselves in.”