Vanderbilt Flexes Some Muscle
With the disappointment from last night in the past, the South Carolina baseball team looked to even up the weekend series against the #3 ranked Vanderbilt Commodores on an overcast Saturday afternoon at Sarge Frye Field. Though there was no David Price on the mound, Saturday brought a new challenge. Vanderbilt LHP Mike Minor owned a 2.35 ERA coming in with an impressive 37:5 K:BB ratio.
As if they were a reflection of the spirit of 5,569 Gamecock fans, grey skies sat low and bloated just before Game Two of the most meaningful match-up in the country. Surely Coach Ray Tanner exorcized any demons left to haunt the team's soul from last night.
Or so Gamecock nation hoped. After a five inning display of small ball, timely hitting and shoddy Gamecock defense, Vanderbilt had already wrestled the Gamecocks' spirit right back down to the mat.
Dominic de la Osa drove the second pitch of the game to right/center field for a long double. Who knew at the time, that would be a sign of things to come… again and again and again. Pedro Alvarez, Vanderbilt's all world third baseman, followed it up with a four pitch walk. USC starting pitcher, Mike Cisco, already looked rattled, throwing a pick off attempt into CF. After three quick first inning runs, the Vanderbilt locomotive was rolling.
With the Gamecocks squeezing what would be their only run across in the bottom of the first, Vandy stretched its legs, putting another three on the board.
Mike Cisco simply did not have it Saturday, as he was knocked out by yet another Commodore barrage in the third inning. Four more Vanderbilt runs and an errant throw from left fielder Robbie Grinestaff made the score 10-1.
Grinestaff left the game immediately following the error. Coach Tanner explained, "He just aggravated the hamstring again. I don't know the status (yet)."
Cisco's shortest outing in his USC career came at an inopportune time. Down in the series 1 – 0, the Gamecocks needed this game to avoid losing the #1 ranking come Monday morning.
After the massacre, Cisco said, "They are a good hitting team, and they are going to capitalize on it. I wasn't hitting spots. I made mistakes, and they hit ‘em."
An anticipated comeback would never come – not even a threat. Aside from Justin Smoak extending his hitting streak to nine games, Freshman LHP Mike Minor slammed the door on a stagnant offense. Minor threw 109 pitches and struck out nine while only yielding five hits. Nine strikeouts after seven innings on Saturday added to seventeen K's in twelve innings last night. Simply put, the Gamecock bats have been completely dominated by the Vanderbilt pitching staff.
Summing up the afternoon, Coach Tanner said, "It was not a good day for us. We were not a good team today, and we were playing a team that is very good. We gave them too many runs early. We just dug ourselves too big a hole, and (Mike) Minor stepped in for them and did a nice job."
To put the season in perspective thus far though, it's the first loss the Gamecocks suffered by more than one run. Tanner felt it was the first time this year they were simply outplayed. "We've been in every game this year until this one. This is the only game of the year where I didn't feel like we had a chance to win the game."
As for last night's 12 inning heartbreaker having an effect on the Gamecocks' performance, Tanner shot down the idea, "No. No. No. No way. We didn't get a quality start from Cisco. The guy's been pretty reliable since he's been here."
Carolina looks to avoid the sweep Sunday at 1:30 p.m., as they will send Freshman Blake Cooper to the hill against Vanderbilt sophomore Nick Christiani.
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