Staked to an early 4-0 lead against the regional number 4 seed, Gamecock fans appeared to be cruising and thinking about their Saturday opponent.
But plucky Rhode Island had different ideas, rallying for five runs over two innings and riding their ace and a strong bullpen performance to a 5-4 upset of top-seeded South Carolina and their fans (some of who, ahem, LEFT EARLY).
Two early home runs by the Gamecocks had Flounders Park rocking, but through the middle innings the fans appeared to grow complacent. Pitching coach Jerry Meyers said head coach Chad Holbrook’s 7th-inning ejection was an effort to get the fans going.
“Oh yeah, he was very disappointed in the fans’ performance tonight,” Meyers said. “You can’t get comfortable up there in the stands. The quiet makes it hard to make quality pitches, and it’s a statistical fact batting averages drop about 100 points when people aren’t standing and cheering for you.”
Meyers said the big blow was later in the 7th inning when attendance was announced.
“6823…” he said as his voice trailed off. After taking a minute to collect himself he continued.
“If 7,000 fans can’t get their butts up and make it to the ballpark for the most important games of the year then we might as well lock the gates and play in front of nobody.”
Second baseman D.C. Arendas agreed.
“Yeah, we tried to keep it together, but there were definitely some emotional guys in the dugout when attendance was announced. Then, in the eighth inning I look up and some fans are actually leaving…”
At that point Arendas shook his head, stood up and left the podium.
We caught up with Gamecock fan Scott Adamson after the game.
“I personally didn’t have it tonight, no doubt,” he said. “I think the entire fan base was looking past Rhode Island. There was no rhythm to our ‘Game’ ‘Cocks’ chant. I spilled some Coke on my Southern Tide shorts in 3rd inning and that really threw me off. All we can do is apologize to the team and work hard to be better tomorrow.”
When asked about his players’ performance, Coach Meyers fired back.
“The PLAYERS? You think this is about the players? It’s not about the players, the coaches, the grounds crew, Andy Demetra…well, maybe it’s little about Demetra…”
“This loss, and all our losses, are on the fans,” Meyers said. “They sit on their hands, and if they’re not sitting on their hands they’re playing Angry Birds or some crap on their phones. Or they’re online key banging some nonsense about how we shouldn’t be bunting…and by the way, we should ALWAYS BE BUNTING…”
At which point he ripped off his jersey to reveal a black shirt with “ABB” written across it in large block letters.
“It’s pathetic. The fans have to step up for us to win. That’s the bottom line.”