Volunteers batter Carolina 13-2

With the season on the line, the Gamecocks showed no signs of life Thursday as Tennessee jumped on top early and won a 13-2 rout. Tennessee lost 8 of 9 SEC games, and 9 straight overall before winning 4-2 at Furman Tuesday. They started Nick Hernandez, who was just 1-5 with a 5.54 ERA coming in. Everything went right Thursday as Hernandez shut down Carolina and the Tennessee bats took over.

In the second inning, Kentrail Davis got things started for the Vols with an inside the park homerun. He hit a deep fly ball off the top of the centerfield wall. Merrifield believed the ball cleared the yellow homerun stripe and hit the batter's eye, but the umpires said it hit off the wall below the stripe. Thinking the play was over, Whit Merrifield was slow to go after the ricochet. By the time he found the ball and made the throw in, Brown was rounding third and heading for home.

The Gamecocks were down only 1-0 heading into the fourth inning, but it still felt like Tennessee was in control. Quickly enough, the Volunteers made the scoreboard reflect that feeling. Will Atwood gave up a leadoff walk to start the trouble. Five more batters would reach base, with three coming around to score and blow the game open.

"We didn't have an opportunity to win this game," said Ray Tanner after the game. "We were going to battle hard early and Hernandez settled down. He handcuffed us and they had plenty of run support."

Craig Thomas replaced Atwood for the final out of the fourth, but was himself roughed up in the fifth inning. Yan Gomes led off with a single, as Tennessee sent all nine men to the plate. Cody Brown had a two run homer, and P.J. Polk had a three run blast to score all five Volunteer runs in the inning.

Pitching was not the only thing to let Carolina down. The Gamecocks mustered just three hits on the night, a season low. On the flip side, Tennessee had four home runs in their 13 hits. Individually, Danny Lima equaled the Gamecocks with three hits for Tennessee, and Cody Brown surpassed them with four hits. Gamecock pitchers hit four Tennessee batters, a season high.

"Hernandez was really, really good," said Tanner. "You've got to give the young man credit. His pitching performance got lost a little bit but he was very good."

James Darnell mustered a two run home run in the bottom of the ninth to keep the Gamecocks from being shut out. If there is a bright spot for Carolina, it is that they only needed to win two games this weekend to make the SEC Tournament. As bad as this loss was, they still have a chance to make it to Hoover.

"We came into this series knowing we've got to win two out of three," Tanner said, "and we've still got two to play. We've still got life."

Notes:

- The last inside the park home run by a Carolina opponent was by Clemson's Tyler Colvin, who did it on April 20, 2005.

- Hernandez pitched his first career nine inning complete game for Tennessee.

- Gamecock pitchers hit four Tennessee batters, tying a season high for hit batters.

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