South Carolina hands LSU first baseball series loss

The LSU baseball team couldn’t get enough hits when it had numerous scoring opportunities during a loss to South Carolina on Saturday night.

On Sunday afternoon, the Tigers had trouble even getting into position to score during a 4-0 loss at Alex Box Stadium.

Freshman Jack Wynkoop pitched seven scoreless innings, and relievers Adam Westmoreland and Tyler Webb finished the six-hitter as South Carolina handed LSU its first series loss of the season.

“(Wynkoop) threw very well; that’s an understatement,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “He threw strikes. He maintained his composure. He didn’t look like a freshman out there. For our pitchers to keep that offensive team to (two runs) in the last 18 innings, (that’s) an incredible performance.”

The 10th-ranked Gamecocks improved to 33-12 and 13-8 in the Southeastern Conference. No. 2 LSU fell to 39-6 and 16-5 after losing consecutive games for the first time this season.

LSU, which had swept three SEC series and won three others, won the opener 5-2 on Friday night. The Tigers host McNeese State on Tuesday.

“We played bad all weekend,” first baseman Mason Katz said. “That’s not to take anything away from them. They’re a really good team. They played better than we did this weekend. They deserved to beat us, but we didn’t play well. We did what we’ve done a few times — we won on Friday and the last two days we didn’t play our best.”

Wynkoop (6-2) limited the Tigers to five hits and no walks with one strikeout. He was named SEC Freshman of the Week last week after beating Kentucky in a season-high eight-inning outing in which he allowed nine hits and one run.

“I just tried to build upon what I did last weekend,” he said, “just throw all my pitches for strikes and hit my spots. That’s really all you can do.”

Westmoreland relieved to start the eighth and gave up a one-out single to Mark Laird and a two-out walk to Jared Foster before Webb relieved and got Alex Bregman to fly out.

Webb pitched a perfect ninth for his SEC-leading 14th save and second in as many games.

He completed the first shutout of LSU since a 7-0 loss at Florida on April 6, 2012. The Gators also are the last SEC team to shut out LSU at home; they did so 1-0 on March 19, 2011.

“(Wynkoop) filled up the zone with strikes; give him all the credit in the world,” Bregman said. “I just think we didn’t come with the same fire that we usually come with, and he pitched his butt off. I don’t think there’s any excuse for not coming out with the fire we had Friday night. We’re going to get back to that.”

Jared Foster got a one-out single in the first, but Wynkoop got Bregman to fly out and Katz to hit into a double play. Raph Rhymes led off the second with a single, but Christian Ibarra followed with double-play grounder and Ty Ross popped up. Sean McMullen doubled with two outs in the third, but Foster fouled to first.

After Wynkoop had his first 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, JaCoby Jones singled with two outs in the fifth before pinch hitter Chris Chinea popped out.

The Tigers went in order in the sixth before Katz led off the seventh with a double. Wynkoop then got Rhymes, Ibarra and Ross in order.

LSU starter Kurt McCune (3-1), who had pitched seven scoreless innings in his previous four appearances, struggled in his first start against an SEC opponent as South Carolina took a 2-0 lead in the first inning for the second consecutive game. With one out, Chase Vergason hit a liner to right that Foster dived for and missed as the ball rolled past him for a triple.

“Right out of the gate, you’re putting your pitcher in a tough situation, and he never got into a groove,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.

One out later, LB Dantzler doubled home Vergason, and Max Schrock singled home Dantzler. South Carolina added a run in the second when Tanner English walked, Graham Saiko singled him to third and Vergason hit a sacrifice fly.

McCune gave up six hits and three runs in 2.2 innings. Nate Fury relieved with a runner on second and got the final out in the third. Brent Bonvillain followed with four scoreless innings, and South Carolina added an insurance run in the ninth.

“I hated to hook Kurt so early,” Mainieri said, “but I just had a feeling that runs were going to be hard to come by against their staff. I didn’t want to fall behind by more than three. But obviously I was hoping for more out of Kurt. He didn’t get his curveball over, and he didn’t get the ball down in the zone.”

LSU, which was 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position in Saturday’s 4-2 loss, only got three runners in scoring position Sunday and never advanced a runner to third.

“Pure and simple,” Mainieri said, “they just outplayed us this weekend.”