Nashville will be the home for Vanderbilt baseball over the next week as today they were eliminated in the 1st round of the SEC Tournament by South Carolina, 7-4.
The Gamecocks put two runs on the board in the 1st inning after Gamecocks outfielder Carlos Cortes launched a two run shot over the right field wall. Cortes drilled the inside change up off Vanderbilt starter Matt Ruppenthal to give the Gamecocks confidence in their bats and they would continue to do work over the next few innings, especially by way of the long ball.
The very next inning, South Carolina added another run to the board when 3rd baseman Jonah Bride sent a Ruppenthal curve ball over the left wall to give the Gamecocks a 3-0 lead.
Vanderbilt however would tie things up in the bottom of the inning when All-SEC snub Will Toffey sent the first pitch he saw from Gamecocks starting pitcher Reed Scott off the right center field wall, scoring three runs and the tying the game at 3-3.
The game would not remain tied for long as Gamecocks 2nd baseman Justin Row sent a solo home run over the wall to give Carolina a 4-3 lead. Row's solo shot was the 3rd home run allowed thus far for Ruppenthal and at this point you was thinking the day would be done for the junior right hander. However, Ruppenthal would settle down a little and maintain the game at 4-3.
The Commodores would go to the bullpen in the 5th, calling on freshman Zach King. The Spring Hill native would go on to have a good performance, keeping his team in the game, giving his offense a chance to find runs. King would go on to pitch 4.2 innings of shutout baseball, striking out one and walking three batters.
While King maintained the game from the mound, Vanderbilt's offense had laid dormant all game long, except for the three run double from Toffey in the 3rd. The Commodores received a massive blast in the 7th inning when shortstop Connor Kaiser sent the ball over the left center field wall for his 1st career home run. The solo blast brought the game back even at 4-4 and it would remain that way until we reached extra innings.
Vanderbilt and South Carolina would go back and forth over the next four innings until we reached the 11th where the Gamecocks put up three runs to take a lead of 7-4. Most of the damage was self done by Commodores closer Reed Hayes. The junior two way standout struggled with his control as he walked three batters and gave up the game winning hit to Alex Destino.
The Commodores would down quickly in the bottom of the 11th and the Gamecocks would eliminate Vanderbilt and move on to face Kentucky in the 2nd round of the SEC Tournament.
Vanderbilt didn't receive a good starting performance from Ruppenthal and their hitters only produced five total hits in the game. Besides Toffey's three run double, the Commodores heart of their batting lineup went 2-18. Ro Coleman in the 2nd spot had a hit and Hayes in the 5th hole produced a hit but Jeren Kendall and Julian Infante went hitless on the day while both also struck out twice a piece.
The NCAA Tournament awaits now for the Commodores. Vanderbilt will now sit the entire week, resting up waiting their destination into the 2017 NCAA Tourney. The Commodores are projected to become a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament but location will not be known until the Selection Show a week from today.
Maybe a week off to rest and reset the season is good for the VandyBoys. Both the pitching and hitting for Vanderbilt needs to be tweaked if they plan to make a run back to the College World Series.