A win would have been great.
A loss wasn't so bad.
"I'm not unhappy with the way we played," Winthrop coach Mark Cooke said after the Eagles dropped a 6-3 decision to South Carolina on Wednesday at Terry Field. "We attacked, we played our game, we had 10 hits off a great South Carolina team.
"We got all the rough edges off before we go back into conference play, which is what we wanted to do."
The Eagles (20-14) pick back up at Radford (25-8) beginning Saturday in a crucial Big South Conference series. Most preseason predictions had the title between the Highlanders, who just received their first-ever vote in the Top 25, and Winthrop, the defending champ.
So beating the Gamecocks (17-15) would have been nice, but it wasn't imperative. What Cooke liked more than anything was the Eagles were down 5-0 by the third inning but fought back, squandering a few too many opportunities before falling.
"We're a very aggressive baserunning team," he said. "We stole second twice on them. We got all three pitchers some work. The difference was they hit two balls on the other side of the fence and we didn't."
Starter Megan Evans (9-5) was tagged for two homers to set up the early lead, a two-run, two-out shot from Cagney Davis in the second inning and a three-run belt from Laura Mendes in the third. Staked to a quick 5-0 lead, USC held the Eagles to two hits before Winthrop's bats awakened.
Three doubles in the fourth scored two Eagle runs, and when Pearl Coleshill led off the fifth with a single, Winthrop began to rally. Tessa Thomas walked and Lisa Kingsmore shot a single through the first-base gap, leaving the bases loaded with nobody out.
The plus-sized crowd on its feet, Stephanie Reid tapped a fielder's choice grounder to first. Becky Martinez had the presence of mind to throw home to keep the run off the board, and although Mallory Hogan delivered an RBI single one batter later, the tone was set.
The Eagles only got one run across and were held to two hits for the duration as USC's Kate Pouliot collected her first save. Winthrop wasn't satisfied with the result but was pleased with the effort.
"We didn't give up," said Kingsmore, who went 2-for-4. "It sucks it had to end that way, but we played well. We're ready to get back into conference."