The verbal spat between South Carolina and Georgia in Sunday’s series finale was probably the most interesting thing to happen on a weekend that unfolded about how everybody expected – with USC sweeping the struggling Bulldogs by a combined score of 22-6.
It started when USC’s Joey Pankake was thrown out trying to steal third base, which ended the fourth inning. As Georgia’s players left the field, second baseman Nelson Ward and shortstop Kyle Farmer appeared to exchange words with USC third base coach Sammy Esposito. Within moments, Esposito was yelling at them, several players came out of the Georgia dugout and the umpires were trying to diffuse the confrontation.
Even after that part of it ended, Georgia first base coach Jason Jacobs said something to the USC dugout as he walked toward his coach’s box for the top of the fifth. USC coach Chad Holbrook sniped back at Jacobs, as did strength and conditioning coach Billy Anderson. Meanwhile, over the Georgia dugout, at least one player and the fans behind the dugout exchanged angry words.
In the end, Esposito, Jacobs and Anderson were all ejected, but the situation did not escalate above verbal sparring. Holbrook said Sunday that additional discipline was possible, and that he would learn Monday if any was going to be handed out.
Sure enough, on Monday, USC announced that Esposito and Anderson would be suspended for Tuesday’s home game against Presbyterian.
The one-game suspensions are mandated by the NCAA because of the ejections. Officially, the suspensions were the result of “personnel other than the head coach ejected for disputing, arguing and unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Per Southeastern Conference policy, a player or coach ejected for the first time in a season gets a written warning. A second ejection in the same season results in a one-game suspension.
The suspensions probably won’t greatly impact USC for Tuesday’s game. Volunteer assistant coach Brian Buscher, who usually coaches first base, moved to third base on Sunday after Esposito was ejected. USC installed backup right fielder Sean Sullivan as the first base coach.
The Gamecocks finish regular season play this weekend at Mississippi State. It is an important series as USC tries to stay in the hunt for a top eight national seed in the NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks (37-14, 16-10) are No. 14 in the Baseball America top 25, while Mississippi State (37-15, 14-13) is No. 24 after losing two of three at Mississippi last weekend.
If USC wins two of three at Mississippi State and gets a quality win or two the SEC tournament, it could be in position to grab one of the final national seeds, which would guarantee the Gamecocks of hosting both a Regional and Super Regional, if they advanced that far.