COLUMBIA, S.C. — Before the South Carolina baseball team left Founders Park on Saturday night, it got together for a players meeting.
It was led by upperclassmen and came after the Gamecocks lost a third straight game. South Carolina was seeking to avoid a weekend sweep for the first time in 2 years Sunday. Whatever was said had the desired impact, as the Gamecocks came out loud in the dugout and rallied late to beat Mississippi State 6-1 on Sunday.
“We just got together and figured somethings out and, obviously, it worked,” shortstop Madison Stokes said. “We are going to try and bounce back from Friday and Saturday and move forward from there.”
The change was evident early Sunday afternoon. The team was boisterous, bringing a different energy than it had of late — one that wouldn’t make you think the team had lost 7 of its past 10 games and was in need of something positive.
Stokes, who went 3 for 4 in the win, said the added boost came from the team “just trying to make the best of it” and to have fun with every moment they have left, something the team has seemed to struggle to do, at times.
“I think they made a pact with themselves,” coach Chad Holbrook said. “I heard they had some team meeting last night and who knows. You can ask the guys about that. They keep that from the coaches. If they did and it worked, they can have all the team meetings they want.”
The players believed the attitude shift brought about by the meeting made a difference. The Gamecocks scored 5 runs in the bottom of the eighth, executing fundamental baseball with a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly before stringing together a run of hits to pad the lead.
It was a stark difference than the way many close games have gone for South Carolina this season, as late, tight games have often gone against USC.
“We tried to get into it a little bit more and stay into it throughout the game,” closer Tyler Johnson said. “I think it helped us win the ball game late. We just went over some things we needed to talk about. Whatever we got off our chest, we got off our chest.”
Stokes believes the change is going to carry over moving forward, beginning with a key weekend series at Florida, which starts Thursday.
“It was just something to spark,” Stokes said. “Hopefully, that spark will turn into a flame and it will grow from there.”