Fitt: Takeaways From Hogs-Gamecocks

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — After South Carolina clinched its series against Arkansas with a 6-2 win Saturday, I wrote that the Gamecocks have their mojo back. The clubhouse is healthier, the players believe in themselves — and the roster is a lot more talented, too.

And then South Carolina proceeded to fall behind 6-1 through four innings Sunday, with the specter of first-team preseason All-America closer Zach Jackson looming in the Arkansas bullpen, rested and ready to work the second half of the game. It certainly didn’t look good for the Gamecocks in the series finale, but coach Chad Holbrook had said Saturday night that he’d be surprised and disappointed if his team came to the ballpark Sunday feeling content with wins in the first two games. He expected his team to fight for the sweep, and that’s just what it did.

What could have easily been an uninspiring, lopsided loss on a dreary Sunday in a half-empty ballpark instead became the signature win of South Carolina’s season to date, a thrilling come-from-behind 8-6 victory that sent a surprising jolt of electricity through Founders Park. This felt like a vintage South Carolina performance, one of those games that seemed almost routine a few years ago when the Gamecock dynasty was at its peak. A game South Carolina had no business winning, but won anyway.

“This ballpark’s got some magic in it,” Holbrook said. “I’ve been in that dugout several times for some dramatic come from behind wins, and this certainly ranks up there with them. I think this team is different. That’s what I’ve taken away from this game is, we have a new team, we’ve got some new players, and this was the first time they were in that moment, and they really dug deep and battled. I would have said that if we lost. I like what I felt in the dugout. There was a certain belief that those guys had, and I told them after the game, wins like that don’t happen by accident. You have to believe it, you have to feel what’s going to happen, you have to want it extremely bad, all those things.

“I told the guys, they deserved what they got. They played their tails off, they battled every pitch. And the fact that they did it against probably the most elite relief pitcher in college baseball tells me something about my kids’ toughness and determination, and that Gamecock moxie that we talk about here all the time.”

Here are some lingering observations and takeaways from the series.


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