South Carolina traveled to Nashville to play Vanderbilt and won the series two games to one.
Breaking it Down…On Friday night the offense started the series off right. In the top of the first inning, Christian Walker hit a solo home run. In the top of the third, the offense blew the game open. Two bunt singles led off the inning. Marzilli then drove in one with a single; Celek drove in two with a double; Payne hit a sac fly, and Dantzler singled in another to give USC a 6-0 lead. Vandy scored two in the bottom of the fourth, but would only threaten once the rest of the game.
Christian Walker hit his second home run of the game in the top of the seventh. The lone Commodore threat came in the 7th. After loading the bases and getting a RBI single, Matt Price came into the game. Price then struck out the first two batters he faced and induced a lazy fly ball to end the threat. Price then worked a perfect eighth (on only 8 pitches) and a scoreless ninth to seal the win.
On Saturday, things got ugly. Evan Beal got the start and worked his way through three scoreless innings, but he ran into trouble in the fourth. After two hits, he walked two batters and his day was done. The relievers who came in weren't much better and when the inning was over, Vandy led 7-0. They added two in the next inning as well. South Carolina got a few runs late, but a forgettable Saturday ended 12-4.
On Sunday the Gamecocks came out hot in the rubber match. They scored one in the first (though they left the bases loaded), one in the fourth and led 4-0 after 2 more runs in the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth the Commodore bats got to Colby Holmes. 2 errors didn't help anything either. When the dust had cleared, VU had scored 3 on 4 hits and 2 errors. USC went down quickly in the 6th which allowed the Commodores to keep the momentum. Matt Price entered, but even he couldn't overcome the shaky play in the field, and the tying run scored when an error thwarted an inning ending double play.
After melting down with defensive miscues and blowing a 4 run lead, the Gamecocks calmed down. Price settled the Vandy bats, and the offense began to threaten, though they weren't able to get the go-ahead run. The game went into extra innings. In the 13th, USC broke through. Evan Marzilli had a one out single, and Christian Walker launched a two out home run. Jordan Montgomery finished off the 'Dores in the 13th to win the series.
Stars of the Series...Michael Roth…W, 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 K…Matt Pric…S, 2 app., 9 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 12 K…Jordan Montgomery…W, 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R…Christian Walker…6-12, 5 R, 5 RBI, 3 HR…Brison Celek…4-13, 2B, 3 RBI…
What to Take Away From the Series...South Carolina is now tied for last in the SEC East at 3-6...and I'm pretty happy about it. This weekend was exactly what USC needed. After getting swept at Kentucky and losing to Florida at home, they needed to bounce back. They needed to prove they can still play baseball, if for no one else, for themselves. They needed to make up some ground in the standings. In short, they needed to win the series, and they did.
They still have some things to figure out: hitting with runners in scoring position and Saturday's pitching situation, but they are in a much better situation now than they were a week or two ago. They are growing, like they need to. This team will continue to be a work in progress. There are cogs that are polished and reliable, such as Roth, Walker, Price, and there are a lot of talented guys that will settle into their roles with this team. They don't have to be perfect today, and they don't have to play their best baseball yet; they just have to keep improving, and they'll be right where they need to be come the NCAA Tournament.
This and That…South Carolina improves to 20-8, 3-6 on the season. Vanderbilt falls to 11-17, 3-6….South Carolina turned 5 double plays to Vandy's 2. South Carolina also left 30 men on base, or right at 1 per inning. Vandy left 19.
Up next…South Carolina travels to College of Charleston on Wednesday night before coming home to host Tennessee over the weekend. Friday's series begins at 7 pm at The Ray.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.