Vanderbilt started out slow on Friday night but finished big as the Commodores came from behind to beat South Carolina 5-3 in extra innings and take the series from the Gamecocks, inside their home stadium.
USC threw their ace on Friday night in Clarke Schmidt and he didn't disappoint. The junior right hander held the Vanderbilt hitters in check throughout until we reached the 4th inning where the Commodore batters woke up.
South Carolina held a 3-0 lead going to the 4th after the Gamecocks pushed across three runs. Contributions from Commodores 2nd baseman Alonzo Jones who mishandled two grounders in his direction, helped USC jump out on top. Vanderbilt didn't panic as the very next inning outfielder Stephen Scott started things off with a double into right center and was followed by Julian Infante's RBI single into left field. The 1st baseman scored a batter later off a wild pitch that reached the back stop. Schmidt was able to get out of the 4th holding a one run lead but the Commodores had brought the game back to within striking distance.
Vanderbilt starting pitcher Kyle Wright has struggled this season but might have put in his most consistent performance of the season on Friday night. The junior did have his struggles in the 3rd inning, giving up three runs but he was able to settle down and maintain a one run game. Wright had his best command of the season and did a solid job of changing speeds and locating his pitches.
Wright pitched six innings on the night only allowing five hits while giving no earned runs. He did walk three hitters but struck out four and did great work getting out of jams and getting back into the dugout. While Wright might of had a good performance, his bullpen teammate in Matt Ruppenthal had the pitching performance of the night.
He came in to replace Wright in the 7th inning and would pitch the rest of the way and eventually pick up the win. Ruppenthal was outstanding against the Gamecocks and really did his team and his fellow pitching staff a solid by going seven innings and allowing the rest of the bullpen to rest and be saved for game three.
Ruppenthal kept the Carolina hitters in check and allowed his offense to find their way. They did just that in the 13th inning when Scott singled into right and was followed by Infante's two run bomb that pushed the Commodores into the lead. Rupp came back out in the bottom of the inning to close things down and give the Vanderbilt the series clinching win.
Infante led the Vanderbilt offense going 2-6 with 3 RBI's, he did however strike out three times. As a team, Vanderbilt struck out 17 times, so that number may need to drop on Saturday if the Dores want to win game three.
Regardless of how it happens, a win is a win. Vanderbilt coming into Columbia and taking the series from the Gamecocks is huge for the Commodores and their progression throughout the season. Friday's win tied the Commodores with South Carolina for 2nd place in the SEC East.
Vanderbilt will go after the series sweep today as they will throw freshman right hander Drake Fellows. The game will be shown on ESPN2 with the first pitch set for 11 am Central.