It’s the reason they were in the game: the Gamecocks needed some emotion. So that’s why Hunter Taylor, Justin Row and Carlos Cortes suited up and took the field Saturday.
Despite going a combined 0-for-8 at the plate in a 5-4 loss to Mississippi State, Taylor and Row provided a spark for a downtrodden baseball team.
“He catches and plays the game with a lot of emotion,” head coach Chad Holbrook said. “I was looking for somebody to kick start us and Hunter and Justin have the ability to do that. They didn’t have great days at the plate, but they hadn’t been in there much. Maybe I was expecting a little bit too much.”
It started in the first inning when Taylor tagged a Bulldog runner out at the plate, stepping over him after the play was over. The intensity continued the third inning when Carlos Cortes launched a shot to right field and started celebrating the home run before leaving the batter’s box.
It boiled over into the ninth when Taylor, after another tag at home plate, slammed the ball on the ground at home plate and screamed something that warranted a few jeers from the Bulldog dugout.
That, plus a ninth-inning home run from Cortes mixed in with a Row stare down of the MSU dugout, added some life to the home dugout, something that hadn’t been there a lot over the past three weeks.
“It’s not consistent enough because we’re not doing enough good things to get some momentum going in our dugout,” Holbrook said. “Kids want to win and they get feeling sorry for themselves and they don’t have the energy we want each and every pitch. You have to make something happen. You have to create some momentum, you have to create some positive energy.”
The lineup changes were just one of the ways the Gamecocks and Holbrook tried to break out of a three-week long funk they’ve been in since dropping the series to Auburn on the road.
The entire team wore stirrup socks Saturday, pushing their pant legs up near their knees. Holbrook also returned to his former position coaching third base. It’s a change he made to see what would happen and said he’s not sure if it will continue the rest of the season.
“I wanted to get back out there. Maybe I’m a little too tough on our players in the dugout and maybe they’ll relax a little bit,” he said. “I was just searching. It wasn’t anything strategic. It’s not going to make a difference coaching third other than from time to time players will smile a little more in the dugout if I’m on them a little too much.”
The Gamecocks (21-13, 7-7 SEC) dropped their third straight SEC series for the first time since 2015 with the loss Saturday it’s also their fourth loss by one run in their last six conference games.
They try and end the streak of close losses Sunday with Adam Hill on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.
“We’re frustrated. We don’t like losing like that,” LT Tolbert said. “Like I said, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to make something happen.”