COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina lost Friday night’s NCAA Regional to Rhode Island, 5-4.
In front of 6,823 Founders Park fans, the top-seeded Gamecocks raced to a 4-0 lead. Most of their heavy lifting came on a pair of first inning home runs off Rhode Island ace Tyler Wilson, who arrived to Columbia with the most wins (12) in the country.
Leadoff man Gene Cone worked a full-count before belting a homer over the rightfield wall. Four batters later, Alex Destino sent a 2-out, 2-run shot to right.
In the third, Jonah Bride served a single between the first and second basemen, to push South Carolina’s lead to 4-0. But Wilson (13-1) kept the damage at a minimum, stranding a pair of Gamecocks base runners.
The rally killer was the game’s turning point.
Rhode Island answered in the fourth with back-to-back home runs by Ryan Olmo and Brett McManus off South Carolina ace Clarke Schmidt.
Schmidt (9-4) was bounced an inning later after giving up a no-out, bases loaded RBI single to Jordan Powell. With Reed Scott on in relief, South Carolina surrendered its lead on a bases loaded, 2-run fielder’s choice to centerfield.
Perhaps in an effort to inject some life Founders Park, South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook was ejected in the top of the seventh for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Skip Deitz. Holbrook’s move proved to be futile.
South Carolina (42-16) will play Duke on Saturday in an elimination game at noon. The winner plays again on Sunday, against the loser of Saturday night’s game between Rhode Island (31-25) and UNCW.