Gamecocks sink Vandy, 3-1

The South Carolina Gamecocks opened a pivotal SEC weekend series against Vanderbilt with a 3-1 victory Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium. Michael Roth pitched a stellar 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run on eight strikeouts and one walk as the Gamecocks made a strong statement in the Top-5 showdown.

In an intense pitcher's duel between two of the league's top hurlers, USC scratched across the first run and kept the Commodores at bay to cue USC's eighth straight conference win and just the latest in the school's rash of victories over top-ranked teams. South Carolina's win snapped Vanderbilt's 11-game win streak, dating back to its Arkansas series three weeks ago.

"It was a great college baseball game tonight," said USC head coach Ray Tanner. "There were two guys on the mound that had some billing coming into it and they didn't disappoint. Both guys were outstanding and kept their teams on position to win. We came up with a couple of big hits and had a good outing from (Matt) Price out of the bullpen."

Tanner said Roth has accepted his position on this team and is thriving on it.

"I didn't expect him to be where he is numbers-wise, but it's been great to watch," said Tanner. "Our guys rally around him and they feel good when he's out there."

Roth's dynamic performance on the mound completely stymied Vanderbilt as the junior lefty settles in well as the Friday pitcher midway through the SEC schedule.

Roth held the first five Commodore batters 1-for-17 and struck out shortstop Anthony Gomez (team-high .397 AVG) twice. Gomez was a strikeout victim only four times in Vanderbilt's first 34 games this season.

"It's a lot of fun. I enjoy pitching on Friday nights and getting the series started," said Roth, who has a 8-1 run and 1.24 ERA in 10 appearances this season. "I wouldn't say it exceeds my expectations because I always expect to do well no matter what I'm supposed to do. If you had asked me in the fall if I'd still be pitching on Fridays I say I doubt it. If you had asked me a year ago, I'd laugh at you. I just thank the coaches for giving me this opportunity. I couldn't have done it without the whole team making great plays."

With an electric atmosphere, South Carolina rattled the Commodore's ace, Sonny Gray with 11 hits over 7 2/3 innings. Before Friday, the SEC strikeout leader allowed just 30 hits total on the season.

Scott Wingo, Adam Matthews and Evan Marzilli, all led the offensive charge with two hits each on the night. Wingo's slashed single up the middle put the Gamecocks on the board first in the third inning.

USC tacked on another run in the fourth inning after Christian Walker opened the frame with a leadoff single to left field. Then, Adrian Morales, who sat out Tuesday's game at The Citadel due to an injured left wrist, was hit on the same arm. Following Brady Thomas' strikeout, Adam Matthews drove in Walker on a first pitch single to left while Morales got caught in a rundown on the base paths. Robert Beary and Marzilli reached on consecutive infield hits to load the bases but the Gamecocks were unable to plate any extra runs.

As Roth teetered over the 100-pitch mark, Vanderbilt got two runners on base on Jason Esposito's stand-up 2-out double that ricocheted off the left field wall and Curt Cassali's walk. However, the Commodores were stuffed on Connor Harrell's ground out to Wingo at second.

Peter Mooney added a boost for Carolina, sending a solo shot into the wind stream and over the left field corner wall. It was Mooney's second homer of the season and first allowed by Gray all season.

The Commodores answered in the eighth inning on Bryan Johns' pinch-hit triple that Marzilli misfielded in left field. Tony Kemp punched Johns across on a sacrifice fly to center field.

It was all Vanderbilt could muster, though, as Matt Price delivered a masterpiece outing for the Gamecock save. Price struck out all four batters he faced to earn his 11th save of the season.

"I just go out there every time and try to give my best," said Price. "I had a little bit more adrenaline tonight. I just wanted to go in there and get my job done.

South Carolina (27-6, 11-2) will look to win its fifth consecutive SEC series Saturday night against Vanderbilt. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be televised on CSS.

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