South Carolina grounds Seahawks in Columbia Regional

Noah Thomas | Sports Editor

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It’s over. Just like that.

Two days ago, UNCW’s Diamond Hawks were riding high with a 2-0 record in the NCAA Tournament’s Columbia Regional. Now they’re headed home after suffering back-to-back losses to host South Carolina.

The events in Columbia were the last of the tournament’s first round to conclude after rain from Tropical Storm Colin washed out the marquee matchup between UNCW and the Gamecocks Monday night. 

Eventually, the higher powers decided the game would start at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Ryan Foster took the mound just three days after tossing a complete game on Friday, hoping to give the Seahawks a chance to advance to their first-ever Super Regional.

UNCW looked good for a while. Then it didn’t. 

Then it really didn’t.

Foster wasn’t holding anything back through three innings. The senior right-hander retired the first nine batters he faced, giving the Seahawks’ offense something to capitalize on early.

Robbie Thorburn scored on a ground ball from Brian Mims in the bottom of the third to give UNCW a 1-0 lead, but that would be the start and finish to the cheeriness.

South Carolina came back in the top of the fourth and began tallying multiple hits off of Foster. He would give up four runs before coach Marc Scalf would opt to replace him with sophomore Taylor Hyssong.

The Gamecocks would take a 5-1 lead on four hits and two UNCW errors before the inning was done. The Seahawks needed some runs.

One of the most prolific offenses in the entire country during the regular season, UNCW struggled to get anything going through the first seven innings outside of the one run scored.

Generally speaking, the Seahawks have not been very good against teams that made the NCAA Tournament. Dan Spears, sports editor at StarNews in Wilmington, pointed out that they have averaged about three runs per game against superior competition as opposed to about 8.5 against everybody else.

The bats finally began heating up in the eighth. Facing a 8-1 deficit, the Seahawks plated four runs on four hits to close the margin to just three.

With Austin Easter in relief, UNCW looked like it might have been able to come back in the end if it weren’t for a two-run double scored by a South Carolina batter in the very next frame.

Steven Linkous led the top of the batting order in the ninth while trailing 10-5. He, nor the batters that followed him, would get anything going.

UNCW needed just one win to advance to the Super Regional in program history. Given two opportunities to do it, the Seahawks could not get it done. 

After losing 2-0—twice—in last year’s Baton Rouge Regional to Louisiana State, it now feels like UNCW has lost in every way possible when it comes to being just shy of the tournament’s second round.

The Seahawks conclude 2016 with a 41-19 record and a regular season championship in the Colonial Athletic Association.