Gamecocks Hold On For 3-2 Victory Over Vandy

South Carolina scored three runs with two outs in the top of the second inning and behind stellar pitching from senior right-hander Blake Cooper and three relievers held on for a 3-2 victory over Vanderbilt in game one of a three-game SEC baseball series on Friday night at Hawkins Field.

The Gamecocks are now 24-6 and 8-2 in the SEC while the loss drops Vanderbilt to 25-7 and 5-5 in conference play. Game two of the series is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon with live audio broadcast on the Gamecock Radio Network and at GamecocksOnline.com.

After spotting Vanderbilt a pair of runs with no hits in the bottom of the first inning, South Carolina would answer in the top of the second scoring three runs to go ahead 3-2 on the Commodores. Jeffery Jones opened the frame with a single to right center and was sacrificed over to second by Adam Matthews. With two outs and Jones still on second base, Kyle Enders lofted a RBI single down the left field line. After a Bobby Haney single put runners on the corners, a wild pitch strikeout against Scott Wingo allowed Enders to score and Wingo to reach base. After a walk to Whit Merrifield loaded the bases, Carolina took the lead on a walk issued to Jackie Bradley Jr.

That score would hold up for the final seven innings as both Cooper and Vanderbilt starter Sonny Gray matched zero for zero on the scoreboard. Cooper ended up going 7.1 innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on two hits with three strikeouts and four walks to improve to 6-0 on the year. Cooper now is tied for 10th on the all-time career victory list at Carolina with 27 career wins alongside Jason Haynie (1993-96). Gray went the distance for Vanderbilt allowing three runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and five walks in nine innings of work. He is now 4-4 on the year.

After Cooper struck out Brian Harris to open the eighth inning, head coach Ray Tanner went to the bullpen and summoned left-hander Michael Roth. The sophomore lefty would get Aaron Westlake to ground out on a short chopper for the second out of the eighth inning. Carolina then went to the pen again with freshman right-hander Ethan Carter, who retired Andrew Giobbi on a ground out to end the eighth as well as Jason Esposito to open the ninth inning. Joe Loftus would lift a single into right center off of Carter to give the Commodores a runner on first with one out. That would set the stage for Carolina freshman right-hander Matt Price, who then entered the game and after falling behind 3-1 on pinch hitter Riley Reynolds, would get a strikeout swinging for the second out of the ninth. Price would then close the game out for his third save of the season as he induced Drew Fann into a ground ball out to second baseman Scott Wingo preserving a Gamecock victory.

South Carolina finished with a 7-3 advantage in hits in the win. Adam Matthews was 2-for-3 to lead the way. Whit Merrifield also tallied a base hit and now owns a 17-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 29 of 30 games for the season.

Vanderbilt took advantage of a couple of Gamecock miscues to take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Brian Harris drew a leadoff walk and Aaron Westlake was hit by a pitch to give the Commodores a pair of runners. They would advance to second and third base on a passed ball issued to catcher Kyle Enders. Andrew Giobbi and Jason Esposito then each drove in a run with RBI groundouts to second baseman Scott Wingo.


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