HOOVER, AL (WIS) - Second ranked Vanderbilt broke open a one-run game with four runs in the top of the ninth inning on the way to a 7-2 win over top ranked South Carolina on Thursday evening at the SEC Baseball Tournament. The Gamecocks are now 45-13 on the year while Vandy moves to 46-9 for the season.
South Carolina is back in action on Friday night against Georgia in an elimination game. First pitch is TBD and will be 30 minutes after the Arkansas-Alabama game that starts at 4 p.m. The game will be televised live on CSS including ESPN3.com and Time Warner Cable channel 506 in Columbia. It can also be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network.
The Gamecocks trailed 3-2 after four innings of play but had several chances to tie it up against the Commodores. Both teams' bullpens did solid jobs to keep runs off the scoreboard. John Taylor was strong with three scoreless innings and allowed just three hits for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina loaded the bases in the seventh inning on a two-out hit by pitch to Robert Beary, a base hit by Steven Neff and a walk to Peter Mooney. On a 2-2 pitch, Scott Wingo knocked a sharp hit ball to shortstop Anthony Gomez, who got the third out on a fielder's choice. Carolina put more pressure on Vandy in the eighth inning as Walker singled to lead off the inning and Morales was hit by a pitch to give Carolina two runners on with two outs. Into the game entered Vandy closer Navery Moore, who got Evan Marzilli to fly out to center field, keeping the Commodores ahead by a run.
Vandy broke it open and extended the lead to 7-2 in the ninth inning. Gomez led off with a single and after a passed ball advanced to third as Aaron Westlake's bunt found its way between the mound and first and runners were safe at the corners. With no outs and runners still on first and third, Mike Yastrzemski set down a squeeze bunt for a base hit and scored Gomez to give Vandy a two-run advantage. Jason Esposito followed with a RBI single up the middle and Conrad Gregor also had a successful squeeze bunt to score a run. Riley Reynolds capped the inning with a two-out RBI base hit.
Vanderbilt starting pitcher Sonny Gray was effective in 6.1 innings of work to pick up the win. He is now 10-3 on the year. He allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits with seven strikeouts and a walk. South Carolina starter Forrest Koumas suffered his first loss of the season and is now 6-1 on the year. He allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits with three strikeouts and four walks. Moore pitched 1.1 hitless innings of relief to pick up his 10th save of the year for Vanderbilt.
"We battled hard," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "It was a tough match-up for us tonight with Sonny Gray. It was kind of a tough start with the walks and hit-by-pitch. John Taylor and Tyler Webb gave us a chance to come back. That's what we were trying to set up for the seventh, eighth and ninth, just to try and have a crack at them but that big ninth kind of did us in. We battled hard but they were the better team tonight.
Vanderbilt held an early 2-0 lead after the first inning. Anthony Gomez drew a one-out walk followed by a double by Aaron Westlake. After Curt Casali was hit by a pitch to load the bases, the Commodores scored their first run as a ground ball by Mike Yastrzemski was bobbled by second baseman Scott Wingo scoring Gomez. A passed ball issued by Gamecock catcher Brady Thomas gave the Commodores a two-run lead.
Carolina cut that lead in half in the second inning. A walk to Brady Thomas started off the frame. With pinch runner DeSean Anderson into the game after Thomas sprained his left ankle, a wild throw on a pickoff attempt by Gray put Anderson on third base. Jake Williams would drive Anderson in with a ground out.
Vanderbilt went ahead by two runs again in the third inning as Jason Esposito walked with two outs, stole second base and scored on Conrad Gregor's RBI base hit to left field. South Carolina answered and cut the deficit to one run in the fourth inning as Adrian Morales got the green light with two outs and a 3-0 count and knocked a RBI single to left field scoring Christian Walker.
Walker went 3-for-4 and scored a run to lead the Gamecocks at the plate. Westlake, Esposito, Gregor and Reynolds all had two hits apiece to lead Vanderbilt.
South Carolina will send junior right-hander Colby Holmes (6-2, 3.46 ERA) to the mound on Friday with Georgia countering with left-hander Blake Dieterich (2-3, 3.51 ERA).