Down six runs with outs disappearing quickly, L.T. Tolbert knew what last year’s South Carolina baseball team would have done: it would have caved and gone away silently.
Not this year’s team though.
The Gamecocks, sparked by a Tolbert' RBI-double in the ninth, rallied from six runs down over the last five innings as one of the bright spots in Sunday’s rubber match loss to Clemson.
“Last year’s team, we wouldn’t have been in that ballgame; it could have gotten to 10-0,” Tolbert said. “When we got down 6-0, that would have been it. That just shows the difference in the team and how we won't give up.
"That starts with coach Kingston and the confidence he instills in us.”
The Gamecocks (7-5) ultimately dropped the game, and the series, to the Tigers on a walk-off triple in the ninth. But there were some things to build on moving forward for South Carolina.
In terms of the score, Clemson only outscored South Carolina by four runs all weekend. Two games were one-run affairs.
South Carolina (21) out-hit Clemson through the weekend as well, and each team had seven extra-base hits. Clemson batters also struck out over twice as much as South Carolina’s.
The biggest differences, though, were the Gamecocks walking 21 batters over the course of the weekend and leaving two more runners on base.
Tolbert said players still have confidence in themselves after a disappointing series loss, the fourth-straight to the Upstate rival. But with a new coach they believe late-inning comebacks aren’t out of the question, like they were last year.
It happened Friday, with the Gamecocks scoring two unanswered runs to walk-off the Tigers. And it almost happened again Sunday.
“Last year’s team wouldn’t have done that. I think that starts at the top,” Tolbert said. “I’m not afraid to say that. Coach Kingston, I’d go to war with that guy any day and I think everybody feels the same.
"There’s a different feel this year. When we get down, it’s not the same. We’re battling.”
For Kingston, it was his first taste of what he called earlier in the week "the best rivalry in college baseball" and he had his team on the cusp of beating a Clemson team ranked as high as No. 7 in some college baseball polls.
He said it’s never fun to lose. But he can use this as a measuring stick for when the Gamecocks get into the thick of SEC play.
“I told our team that the team we played today is similar to the teams we’ll play in our conference and this series could have gone either way,” Kingston said on Sunday. “Once again, I’m not happy that we didn’t win the series, but we learned a lot.
"We’ll build on it and be better because of it.”
The Gamecocks now have a quick turnaround to play Appalachian State Tuesday night in Charlotte’s BB&T Ballpark.
They’ll have to flush this loss quickly. But Kingston said this isn’t a loss that will linger too long in the clubhouse, because the team had fight late.
“I saw a lot to build on today,” Kingston said. “So once again, we hate to lose to anybody and hate to lose a series like this; but it brings you down if you let it bring you down.
"And we won’t let that happen.”