Over and out: South Carolina baseball eliminated by James Madison in NCAA Tournament

South Carolina whimpered out of the NCAA Tournament with a 2-0 loss to James Madison Sunday afternoon in the Raleigh Regional.

USC finishes the season 37-25 overall.

In six completed seasons under head coach Mark Kingston, the Gamecocks have advanced twice out of the regional round of the NCAAs.

On Sunday, the No. 2 seed Gamecocks received an outstanding performance out of their pitching staff in the elimination game but couldn’t get a key hit against the No. 3 Dukes. South Carolina played three games in the regional and mustered a 1-for-18 performance with runners in scoring position in two games against James Madison.

James Madison tallied solo home runs in the first and eighth innings by Mike Mancini. After USC starter Dylan Eskew retired the first two batters, Mancini worked a 10-pitch at bat before hitting a home run into the trees beyond the right field fence. Mancini hit his second home run off Tyler Pitzer in the eighth inning to provide the final score.

It was the first two home runs hit by the Dukes in the regional.

“Dylan Eskew couldn’t have done any better than he did today,” Kingston said. “He gave up a solo shot and Pitzer gave up a solo shot. Those guys pitched their (butts) off. The reason we lost today is because we couldn’t score any runs. Their guy had our number.”

The Gamecocks chased James Madison starter Casey Smith after 2.1 innings but could not figure out Dukes reliever Donovan Burke. The left-hander pitched 6.2 innings and allowed no runs on three hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. In two appearances against South Carolina, Burke threw 155 pitches and allowed one run on seven hits with 11 strikeouts and four walks.

“He’s a heavy ground-ball pitcher and we’re a power team, so it was a matchup that was tough,” Kingston said. “He threw a lot of strikes and only walked two guys today. You have to tip your cap. He was a quality lefty that matched up well against us and he got us.”

South Carolina had its chances. They got the leadoff hitter on in three consecutive innings but couldn’t score. The best opportunity came in the sixth inning when Ethan Petry led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. He was stranded there when the Gamecocks had a weak grounder to first base and consecutive strikeouts to end the threat.

South Carolina also had two calls overturned on replay. Will Tippett was called out on a bunt attempt that would have had runners at first and third with no outs in the fifth inning. Talmadge LeCroy had to return to first on the interference call. Then Dylan Brewer was hit by a pitch to open the ninth, but it was ruled he leaned into the pitch, making him out.

Petry returned to the lineup after suffering a hairline fracture in his left hand on Friday night. He had a double, the only extra base hit for the Gamecocks. South Carolina only had five hits Sunday, two by leadoff batter Austin Brinling.

“He threw a lot of strikes,” Petry said of Burke. “We were trying to do too much and trying to overswing.”

James Madison (36-24) advanced to face host team N.C. State at 6 pm.

Kingston described the Gamecocks’ season as a good one — but not a great one.

“The players said this was one of the best years of their baseball life, which is what you want to hear as a coach,” he said. “I think they all grew on and off the field. They became better players. I would hope our leadership helped them become better people and learned a lot of things on how to handle adversity and how to bounce back. It will serve them well the rest of their lives.

“We have a lot of great kids from great families with great foundations, and our jobs as coaches is to just continue to build on that. I will walk out of here today knowing we are doing that.”

NCAA Tournament: Raleigh Regional scores, schedule

Friday’s games

South Carolina 8, James Madison 7 (10 inn.)

N.C. State 9, Bryant 2

Saturday’s games

James Madison 8, Bryant 1 (Bryant eliminated)

N.C. State 6, South Carolina 4

Sunday’s games

James Madison 2, South Carolina 0 (South Carolina eliminated)

N.C. State vs. James Madison, 6 p.m. (TV TBD, streaming on ESPN+)

Monday’s game

If necessary, TBD (TV TBD, streaming on ESPN+)