Disher, Darnell lead SC to 8-2 win over Vandy

The Gamecock baseball team returned to their winning ways and avoided being swept at home by their SEC rival with a 8-2 win over #3 Vanderbilt on Sunday. The USC bats struggled in losses to the Commodores on Friday and Saturday, but James Darnell and Phil Disher made sure that wouldn't happen again, with two home runs and 8 RBIs between them.

Freshman pitcher Blake Cooper made sure the Vandy bats didn't answer, holding the Commodores scoreless until the 8th inning.

Darnell hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning, followed soon after by a two run blast by Disher, both over the left center field fence. Disher tied his career high with four RBIs in the game. Head Coach Ray Tanner spoke of how his team handled the adversity of the previous two losses and came out to win today, stating, "We were able to get those two home runs early, that helps relax you a little bit. They came out with some pride at stake, and they played well."

In the third inning Disher singled for his third RBI of the game to score Darnell, and then drove in his fourth run of the game in the fifth inning with another single. Darnell pushed across two more runs in the sixth with a RBI double. Darnell and Disher drove in seven of the eight runs for the Gamecocks on the afternoon. Darnell finished 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBI and Disher finished 3-for-4 with a run and four RBI.

South Carolina entered the weekend ranked #1 by Baseball America, but last week's #1 Vanderbilt made a strong case to return to the top spot after taking the first two games of the series from USC. The Gamecocks made clear early that they weren't going to allow a sweep, plating runs in five of the first six innings to coast to the win. Carolina improves to 23-6 and 5-4 in conference play while the loss drops Vandy to 26-4 and 5-4 in the SEC as well.

Pitching his fourth win in his fourth start, freshman right-handed pitcher Cooper had the longest outing of his career, pitching 7.2 innings. Cooper's previous high was 5.2 innings. His counterpart on the mound, Vanderbilt starter Nick Christiani lasted only 2.1 innings and allowed five runs on four hits with two walks to lower his record to 5-2 this season. Cooper received a long standing ovation when he came off the mound, and was asked if he had ever had an ovation like that. He laughed and said, "No, especially not in high school. We had 15-20 people there. I just enjoyed the moment." Cooper played at Edisto High School in the small Orangeburg County town of Neeses.

As the new guy, Cooper is the least heralded of the three USC pitchers currently starting in SEC games, but he played well and has outshone his Saturday counterpart Mike Cisco in all three of the SEC series the team has played. Of this weekend's play, Cooper said, "Friday and Saturday we didn't do so good, so I just wanted to come in and get the momentum going into the week to try and get the win for the team. My breaking pitch was working pretty well."

Head Coach Ray Tanner had high praise for his young freshman pitcher: "It was a tremendous performance. We had a very disheartening loss on Friday, a great college baseball game we came up short, and then yesterday we got spanked. We had to ask a freshman to pick us up today and he did a super job. That's a lot to ask of a young guy, and he's been really, really good for us."

Commenting on the specifics of Cooper's game, Tanner said, "His fastball is in the upper 80's, it's not an overpowering pitch, but it's got a little run to it, and he throws breaking balls anywhere in the count, threw a few splits. You can tell by the swings (of the Vanderbilt batters) that he had a couple guys outfoxed."

The weekend was the best attended of the year so far for USC, with 5521 in attendance to witness the Carolina victory on Sunday.

South Carolina returns to action against Furman at 7 pm on Wednesday night in a non-conference game at Sarge Frye Field.

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