STARKVILLE, MISS.—Six innings into Friday's game, South Carolina found itself in a really good spot.
With the two teams they needed to lose — Alabama and Kentucky — getting blown out by their respective opponents, the Gamecocks were tied with Mississippi State.
If they stole a game against the No. 5 team in the country Friday, they'd be in a really good spot entering the final day of the regular season. That didn't happen.
The Gamecocks missed a prime opportunity Friday, giving up 11 unanswered runs, nine over the last two innings, dropping the game and the series with an 11-2 loss. Through the first 18 innings of this series South Carolina is being outscored 35-9.
South Carolina now needs to win and have Alabama lose Saturday to clinch a spot in the SEC Tournament, and still needs a win to avoid just their fourth overall losing season since 1963.
It all happened so quickly for Reid Morgan, who was tossing an absolute gem through the first six innings, giving up two runs on five hits with both runs and three hits coming in one inning.
Things spiraled downward rather quickly in the seventh, with Josh Hatcher launching a tie-breaking solo shot to left before the Gamecocks committed three errors to plate another Mississippi State run, with Olson sending the run home on a throwing error to first.
Morgan (4-6, 3.80 ERA) gave up two more RBI hits in a four-run seventh, finishing his outing tossing seven innings. He gave up a total of six runs — three earned — on eight hits and struck out four. He didn't walk a batter, but dropped his sixth decision in seven starts.
Needing to save arms, the Gamecocks (27-27, 7-22 SEC) put in Josiah Sightler to pitch starting the eight. In his first-career outing on the mound, the lefty walked two batters on eight pitches and gave up a two-run homer.
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Mississippi State scored three more in the inning, on a bases-clearing triple and a two-out double off Wes Sweatt and Gage Hinson.
Heading into a pivotal game Saturday, the Gamecocks will have the majority of its pitching staff ready to go.
South Carolina jumped out to a quick lead, loading the bases with one out and getting two runs on a couple of wild pitches from Bulldog starter J.T. Ginn.
Mississippi State didn't wait long to tie the game, getting three singles in the first four batters of the inning to break Reid Morgan's shutout and tying the game on a groundout to third base, before exploding for four runs in the seventh.
They chased Ginn after six innings, getting only two runs on three hits, and got to the Mississippi State bullpen probably earlier than they hoped.
It was tough sledding, putting just one man on base the final three innings with the Bulldog bullpen allowing just one hit. South Carolina mustered two hits across the final six innings.
Key moment: After Morgan gave up a homer, the Gamecock defense committed three errors to plate another run as the seventh began to spiral.
Up next: The Gamecocks try to get that much-needed win Saturday at 2 p.m. with no starting pitcher announced yet. It will be televised on SEC Network Plus.