Ray Tanner used that line twice following Friday’s completion of game one and game two of the series between Alabama and South Carolina
Game one of the series was a pitcher’s duel that ended in a 1-0 Gamecock win after Adam Matthews homered to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning Friday afternoon, the only hit of the game for Carolina.
The hero of game one was almost the goat of game two. Despite homering again, Matthews took a ball that hit off the wall to the side of the head, misplayed another fly ball, and slipped and fell trying to get to another ball that all resulted in Alabama runs.
“It was a crazy day,” Matthews said. “We couldn’t have had two crazier games. For myself, taking one off the side of my head off the wall and slipping on a ball blooped over Walker’s head and missed that ball on the track. It’s baseball and that stuff happens, but I have to be better than that out there.”
The second game of the series was anything but a pitcher’s duel as the bats came to life. Alabama pounded out nine hits and scored seven runs in the first three innings alone, while Carolina had five hits and scored five runs itself to stay alive. Carolina scored four more in the fourth to take the lead, but would have that erased in the sixth to set up another dramatic walk-off hit.
With Alabama leading 11-9 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Evan Marzilli struck out to begin the inning. Christian Walker doubled to left center and was brought home on a single by Grayson Greiner. T.J. Costen, who entered the game as a pinch runner in the seventh, doubled down the left field line on a 1-2 pitch. LB Dantzler was intentionally walked to bring up Sean Sullivan and set up the heroics.
Sullivan blooped the first pitch Jake Hubbard threw into shallow left center. With the infield drawn in for a play at the plate, shortstop Jared Reaves was unable to get to it as it dropped in. Greiner scored easily and Costen was sent home as left fielder Hunter Gregory booted it. The throw from Gregory was high and Costen slid in safely to give the Gamecocks a dramatic 12-11 win to take their fifth straight conference series and will go for their third straight sweep Saturday afternoon.
“I was just trying to get something elevated for a sac fly and at least tie the game,” Sullivan said, who entered the game as a defensive substitution in the eighth. “I really couldn’t have thrown it in there any better than that. I’ll take it. A win’s a win and I’m really happy right now.”
It was clear from the start that freshman Jordan Montgomery did not have his best stuff. Montgomery gave up ten runs – six of them earned – on eleven hits, but was able to stick it out and pitch into the sixth inning before giving way to the bullpen and Evan Beal. Bama scored four in the first, two in the second, one in the third, one in the fifth, and two more in the sixth that were all credited to Montgomery.
“I missed my spot a couple of times and they were just hitting it where we weren’t. Can’t really do anything about that.”
Austen Smith delivered a two-run single in the first and Josh Rosencrans and Brett Booth followed with RBI’s to stake Bama to the 4-0 lead. Hunter Gregory delivered a two-run single against a drawn in infield in the second, and Brett Booth scored on a fielding error by Adam Matthews in the third as the Tide led 7-4 early.
Alabama starter Taylor Guilbeau did not last near as long as Montgomery, exiting in the third inning after giving up five earned runs. Christian Walker had a two-run homer in the first and Adam Matthews added a solo shot in the second. He would be replaced by Trey Pilkington who, despite giving up four earned runs, would pitch into the seventh inning to keep from further taxing the Alabama bullpen. The big blow was a three-run bomb by Grayson Greiner that gave Carolina a 9-7 lead in the fourth.
After the Gamecocks scored in each of the first four innings, Pilkington retired nine batters in a row before surrendering a two-out walk to Kyle Martin in the seventh and would leave after an LB Dantzler double. Jon Keller, who gave up the first-pitch homerun to Matthews in game one, struck out pinch-hitter Brison Celek to end the seventh and retired the Gamecocks in order in the eighth, the fourth consecutive inning without a run for Carolina. Keller would pitch into the ninth before loading the bases with one out and Bama holding an 11-10 lead. That’s when he would give way to Hubbard with Sullivan coming to the plate.
“They settled in on the mound and looked good,” Tanner said. “Their lefty (Keller) got some big outs, but we just kept hanging in there.”
Greiner had three hits and drove in four runs, and Walker, Dantzler, and Tanner English all had two hits to lead the Gamecocks, who improved to 32-11 on the season and 13-7 in conference play. Alabama improved to 17-27 on the season and 6-14 in conference play. Nolan Belcher was credited with the win to improve to 3-2 after facing just one batter in the ninth, while Keller was credited with the loss – his second of the day – to drop to 1-4 on the season.
“Baseball is a great game,” Tanner said. “Some days it completely humbles and devastates you, and then other days you just play it 27 outs and good things can happen. It was our day for something good to happen. We get one-hit in the first game and we win. It’s just crazy.”