NCAA Baseball Tournament: North Carolina 6, South Carolina 5 -- The Defense Wrests

USA TODAY Sports

There were a lot of reasons that the Gamecocks lost the first game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional. But the defense was one of the biggest ones

There's no part of the Gamecocks' team that is really blameless in Saturday's loss to North Carolina. The pitching staff allowed 11 hits and tacked on four walks. South Carolina's offense got fifteen hits, drew three walks and also benefited from two errors -- while manage to score five runs. This was a team loss.

But South Carolina likely would have had a chance to win this game -- indeed, likely would have won the game or at least sent it to extra innings -- had it not been for the sloppy defense. That defense, more than any other single aspect of the loss, helped wrest victory away from the Gamecocks.

It started in the first inning, when a dropped fly ball on what would have been the third out instead lead to the first of two unearned runs. In the third inning, right fielder Connor Bright took a double from Cody Stubbs and threw it to -- no one in particular, allowing Colin Moran, who otherwise would have stopped at third, to score. Without those two unearned runs, the eventual walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth only cuts the North Carolina deficit to one.

Of course, you can't play what if in baseball any more than you can play what if in any other sport. The score determines how a team pitches and plays defense and approaches hitting in a game. And South Carolina benefited from some North Carolina miscues as well, including two errors.

So you can't blame the defense entirely for what happened Saturday. But the way the Gamecocks played in the field certainly didn't help their cause, and you can argue that it hurt the most.

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