A quick look at three things we learned from the Gamecocks' disappointing series loss in Missouri:
1) Defense, defense, defense - Wil Crowe pitched a great game Friday night, striking out six and only walking two over 8 innings work. Despite this, the Carolina defense let him down in the late innings as Max Schrock badly misplayed a fly ball to left that would've ended the inning. Instead, the ball bounced off of Schrock's glove and allowed the go-ahead Missouri run to score. With the team struggling to score runs, they cannot afford to give the other team anything., especially in the bottom of the 7th with 2 outs.
2) What happened to our late inning pitching? - Let's face it. The bullpen is struggling. To make it worse, the guy who seems to be struggling the most is our closer Taylor Widener. On Saturday, Widener continued to struggle with his command as he walked 2 batters and gave up 6 hits in only 2.1 innings worth of work. Missouri has a decent team this season, but they are not close to being the best lineup we will see in SEC play. If this team wants to compete for a SEC title and a national championship the late inning relief pitchers must start shutting down games. When you have an opportunity to slam the door on a good team, on the road, and in extra innings you must shut it. Hard. Is there a solution? Most likely, yes. Do I know what it will be? No absolutely not. However, I would look for Vince Fiori and Brandon Murray to maybe take on an even bigger role in the late innings. Fiori currently has an ERA of 1.00 and is only allowing a .150 opposing batting average, while Murray came up clutch on Sunday afternoon after a rough start for Clarke Schmidt.
3) It's safe to say this lineup is hot and cold - Our offense continues to lack consistency against good pitching. The team batting average dropped to .266 on the year and the OBP currently sits at .358. On the surface, these numbers may not seem horrible. But, against a good pitching this team can struggle for long stretches. Alex Destino had his first couple of games where he truly looked like a freshman in the SEC. He looked absolutely lost against Missouri pitching as he went 0-8 on Friday and Saturday nights. Martin and Caldwell continued to impress. But this team needs somebody else to step up. This lineup has plenty of talent, but putting together consistent at-bats is a must for this team in the very near future.