Story by Matt Smith
South Carolina delivered its share of body blows to Vanderbilt early, but it was Julian Infante that landed a coup de grace in the form of a grand slam in the Commodores’ 22-11 victory Friday night at Founders Park.
The Gamecocks held a 3-1 lead after the first inning behind consecutive RBI singles from TJ Hopkins and Luke Berryhill. George Callil’s bases loaded walk accounted for the third run. The following inning, Berryhill’s two-run homer made it 5-1 Gamecocks.
But South Carolina saw its early lead swallowed up in Vanderbilt’s monstrous fourth inning. The Commodores got to starter Daniel Lloyd and reliever Dylan Harley to the tune of seven runs in the frame. The outburst gave the Commodores an 8-5 lead, but that advantage was even more short lived, as Jacob Olson deposited one in the bullpen for a three-run homer in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at 8.
After a scoreless fifth, Vanderbilt ruined the Gamecocks’ hopes with a nine-run sixth. South Carolina pitching walked six batters in the inning, which lasted nearly an hour. The exclamation point came on Infante’s grand slam, accounting for four of his six RBIs.
South Carolina, struggling with injuries to its staff, used five pitchers. In order for the Gamecocks to pick up their first SEC series win, they will likely need Game 2 starter, Reid Morgan, to be effective and efficient to give the shortened bullpen a rest.
The double-digit loss overshadowed big offensive nights for Gamecocks Berryhill (4 RBIs, 11th home run), Olson (4 RBIs, 13th home run) and Hopkins (3 for 4, 3 runs).
Game 2 of the series is Saturday, 8 pm at Founders Park. A pregame ceremony will honor the career of Gamecock legend Earl Bass by retiring his jersey.