Dyson guides USC to 8-5 win over Vanderbilt

Last weekend against Florida, it seemed as though South Carolina could do no right. A week later, the Gamecocks seemed as though they could do no wrong as Sam Dyson's near complete game performance steered USC towards a crucial 8-5 win in Game 1 of a three-game set with Vanderbilt on Friday night. The Gamecocks used six runs in the first three innings to take an early lead and never look back.

With two runners on in the ninth inning, South Carolina pitcher Sam Dyson threw up a 101 mph fastball according to the stadium scoreboard that Vanderbilt's Curt Casali turned into a run scoring single. Despite the outcome of the pitch, it was that kind of night for Gamecocks. The sophomore pitcher seemed to get better as he went along and the effort helped Dyson and the Gamecocks erase the memory of last weekend's sweep at Florida as they held on for an 8-5 win over the Commodores.

"I think last weekend at Florida we kind of realized we had to step it up. We've got some older guys on the team but we also have some young guys that have been stepping it up," Dyson said. "It was great to see the offense respond like that. I think last Friday we had some struggles at the plate and this weekend we came back and battled a little bit and got some runs on the board early."

Originally billed as a possible pitcher's duel between Dyson and Vanderbilt's Mike Minor, almost 30 scouts were in attendance in hopes of seeing two future draft picks battle it out. While Dyson lived up to that end of the deal with the 139 pitch outing, Minor (4-4) was hit for nine hits and seven runs in less than six innings of work en route to taking the loss.

The left hander had entered Friday's game with an ERA at just 3.33 but issued four walks to just one strikeout in 109 pitches on the night.

"I think the thing that hurt him tonight was he was maybe too accurate if that makes sense," USC first baseman Nick Ebert said. "He was around the plate the whole night and we were just swinging at almost everything that came in and had some good approaches up there." .

Things didn't start well for Dyson (7-3) as a solo shot from Steven Liddle left the ballpark and landed in Williams Street to give the Commodores a 1-0 first inning lead. But the Gamecock offense responded some firepower of its own as cleanup hitter Jackie Bradley, Jr. sent a Minor offering into the right field bullpen to give USC a 2-1 lead.

The Gamecocks (28-18, 10-12 SEC) tacked on plenty of insurance in the second inning as catcher Justin Dalles started the inning off by taking Minor halfway up the bleachers in left field for a solo shot. Parker Bangs was issued a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bobby Haney to bring second baseman Scott Wingo up. Despite a sub-.200 batting average, Wingo got the best of Minor with a shot off the centerfield wall which he hustled into an RBI triple to give Carolina a 4-1 lead.

Standing on third, Wingo finished his trek around the base pads as he raced home on a suicide squeeze bunt from Whit Merrifield to finish the scoring in the inning.

"I about died going around second," Wingo said of his triple. "We knew (Minor) was the real deal and we just wanted to have some good at bats off of him. I don't think we let him get too comfortable tonight so we did a good job."

USC added two more runs during Nick Ebert appearances at the plate over the next two innings, including a solo homer to start the third and a bases loaded walk in the fourth to make it 7-2 Gamecocks. That would be all the run support Dyson would need as he scattered six hits from the third through eighth inning and brought an 8-3 lead into the ninth inning.

With a five run lead in the top of the ninth, USC coach Ray Tanner elected to leave Dyson on the hill in hopes he would get the final three outs. But two hit batters and a single helped score two runs as the Commodores (27-18, 10-11 SEC) trimmed the deficit to 8-5 with the tying run in the on deck circle. Reliever Alex Farotto came out of the bullpen to face Aaron Westlake with two down and get the lefty to strikeout swinging to end the game.

The win snaps a four-game losing skid for Carolina who are now two games up on Auburn and Kentucky for the final slot in the SEC Tournament's field of eight teams. With almost all of the conference teams still in contention for a slot in the postseason field, Tanner is hopeful the stress won't get to his team when they return to action tomorrow at 7 p.m.

"There's a lot of pressure on a lot of us. A lot of teams right now are looking and thinking we've got to do this, we've got to do that to play at the end of the year and get to Hoover to have a good enough record, a good enough RPI to go beyond that," Tanner said. "It's tough. Just to be able to win tonight gives you a little relief before you strap it on tomorrow."


-DeAngelo Mack extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single in the first inning.

-Jackie Bradley, Jr. finished the night 3-for-5 with two RBI as the team collected 10 hits and eight runs.

-Sam Dyson's 139 pitch outing is the longest of his career and gives him seven straight starts with over 100 pitches thrown.

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