Hoover woes continue

HOOVER, Ala. -- South Carolina's woes at the SEC Tournament continued Wednesday night when an eighth-inning squeeze play broke a 2-2 tie and gave Vanderbilt a 3-2 victory. Tyler Webb took the loss for the Gamecocks, while Kevin Ziomek earned the win for Vandy. South Carolina faces Auburn in an elimination game Thursday afternoon at 5:30 ET.

Early in South Carolina's SEC Tournament opener against Vanderbilt, its recent woes in Hoover, Ala. appeared to be over. The Gamecocks (39-16) got a two-out, two-RBI single from Tanner English in the second inning and starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery appeared to be dealing.

But that appearance would be short-lived as Vanderbilt (31-25) fought back to tie the game 2-2, and broke that tie in the eighth inning on a squeeze play to give the Commodores a 3-2 victory and the Gamecocks another loss in the tournament.

With Vince Conde on third base and one out in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game and Mike Yastrzemski facing a 1-2 count, Vandy decided to pull what no one expected: the suicide squeeze.

Yastrzemski executed the play perfectly putting the Tyler Webb pitch down in play to allow Conde to score easily. A gamble? Sure. But a gamble that paid off.

"You don't see that very often," head coach Ray Tanner said of the squeeze with two strikes. "It was a great play on their part. Yaz got the ball down and they end up getting a big run out of it."

The loss marks the Gamecocks fifth straight to Vanderbilt in Hoover as South Carolina falls to 7-15 in the tournament since winning it in 2004.

South Carolina jumped out front early when English lined starter TJ Pecoraro's pitch into left field to score two runs and put the Gamecocks up 2-0 with two outs in the second. They nearly broke the game open when next batter Evan Marzilli smoked a ball to deep center -- but Connor Harrell got an excellent jump and chased down the fly ball to end the inning and keep the game close.

The Gamecocks got the start they needed out of Montgomery who gave up just an earned run on two hits and struck out five. But while the Commodore hitters weren't getting to Montgomery, they were making him work and he was pulled after five innings and 84 pitches.

Despite the early big hit, another one never came as Carolina stranded 11 runners.

"We had some opportunities and runners out there," Tanner said. "We kept waiting for another hit. We kept waiting to get another one. They did a good job on the mound, and we could never come up with the big hit."

Vanderbilt chipped away at the lead with a run in the fifth when Harrell led off the inning with a double. Two flyouts in a row allowed him to tag up twice to cut the lead in half.

The Commodores tied it up when the Gamecocks turned to Webb to start the sixth. Yastrzemski led off the inning with a single. Vanderbilt executed perfectly, as it seemingly did all night, when Anthony Gomez bunted him into scoring position. Spencer Navin singled through the right side to score Yastrzemski and tie the game.

South Carolina would then record just one hit, a single, in its final four at-bats as Kevin Ziomek and Clinard each pitched two scoreless innings to record the win and save, respectively.

South Carolina faces Auburn Thursday evening at 5:30 ET in an elimination game. Senior left-hander Michael Roth gets the start for the Gamecocks.

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