Trailing by a pair of runs, third ranked South Carolina batted around in the seventh inning and scored four times to rally for a 5-3 victory over top ranked Vanderbilt to clinch a weekend SEC baseball series. The Gamecocks are 28-7 and 12-3 in the SEC while Vanderbilt drops to 32-5 and 11-4 in conference play. Sophomore right-hander Matt Price worked three scoreless and struck out seven batters to pick up the win and improve to 4-2 on the year.
Sunday afternoon’s game was played in front of 8,242 fans, the third straight sellout at Carolina Stadium and seventh of the year. The three-game series attendance was 24,726, the best three-game mark in Carolina Stadium history.
The Gamecocks entered the bottom of the seventh against Vanderbilt starter Taylor Hill trailing 3-1 to the Commodores. Never down and never out, the Gamecocks battled back starting off with a leadoff double by designated hitter Steven Neff, who was making his first start of his career as a position player. Vanderbilt would go to the pen for left-handed reliever Corey Williams, who walked Peter Mooney giving Carolina a pair of runners with no outs. That would send Vanderbilt to the pen again, this time for right-hander Will Clinard. Robert Beary would execute a perfect bunt down the third base line that Clinard could not field and the bases were loaded with no outs after a base hit from Beary. Left-hander Kevin Ziomek would be the fourth pitcher of the inning for Vanderbilt and Carolina would counter with pinch hitter Greg Brodzinski. Zimoek would hit Brodzinski to plate home a run and cut the deficit to 3-2. With the bags still full, Jackie Bradley Jr. laced a single to center field scoring Mooney and tying the game at 3-3. The bases still loaded Scott Wingo would have a quality at-bat and knock a ground out to second base that scored Beary giving Carolina a one-run lead. An intentional walk would load the bases one more time for Carolina as Vanderbilt decided to walk Walker to face the left-handed Brady Thomas. Thomas would deliver for Carolina as he lifted a sacrifice fly to center field scoring Brodzinski and giving Carolina a two-run advantage.
With a 5-3 lead, Price continued his solid relief effort as he struck out the side in the eighth inning, setting down the heart of Vanderbilt’s order (3-4-5 hitters Aaron Westlake, Jason Esposito, Mike Yastrzemski). In the ninth inning, Vanderbilt would put a pair of runners on base with one out. Price settled in though and struck out Conor Harrell looking for the second out of the game. After a wild pitch advanced runners and with a full count, Price ended the game with a called third strike on Tony Kemp ending the game and preserving a Carolina victory and series win over the Commodores.
Price allowed just two hits and struck out seven batters to earn the win. He struck out 11 batters out of 13 outs he recorded to earn a win and a save. Vanderbilt reliever Will Clinard suffered the loss and is now 1-1 on the year.
South Carolina broke ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a single and advanced to third base on a two-base fielding error by right fielder Mike Yastrzemski. He would score on a RBI double down the right field line by Scott Wingo that extended Wingo’s hitting streak to 12 games. Carolina looked to score more with runners on second and third with one out but Vandy kept the Gamecocks from additional runs as a fielder’s choice off the bat of Morales saw second baseman Bryan Johns gun down Scott Wingo at home plate and Christian Walker also thrown out at home on a double steal attempt. Vanderbilt answered in the top of the second to tie it at 1-1 as Jason Esposito led off with a solo home run to left-center, his fourth home run of the season. It was still 1-1 for a bit as Hill and Gamecock right-hander Forrest Koumas did a good job of matching zeros on the scoreboard. Vanderbilt would however get to Koumas in the sixth inning on back to back home runs by Aaron Westlake and Jason Esposito.
Both teams finished with eight hits on the afternoon. Bradley and Mooney had two hits apiece to lead Carolina. Scott Wingo also extended his hitting streak to 12 games and drove in a pair of runs. Esposito went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI and Curt Casali finished the day 3-for-4.
South Carolina returns to action on Tuesday night at College of Charleston in non-conference action. First pitch is 6 p.m. at Patriots Point.