The Commodores improved to 21-5, 4-3 in the SEC.
Certainly it wasn't the prettiest of performances and Sowers would likely be the first to admit it. But... "My stuff was better than their stuff and I just bore down and got the outs," Sowers said, and the Commodore offense gave him more than enough support.
"The bottom line is that we prepared for this game," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin. "I talked to the guys about jumping out early and getting runs in the first, second and third innings and not exploiting the negatives."
To counter Sowers the No. 5 Gamecocks had Billy Buckner (no relation to the Bosox infielder) on the mound, coming in at 4-0 with an ERA of 3.21. Through 4 innings, the game stayed close. Vandy had opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with a leadoff triple by Ryan Klosterman, and Warner Jones plated the run with a sacrifice fly to right.
South Carolina matched that run in the top of the second when Hank Parks hit a one-out double and scored when Davy Gregg doubled over Antoan Richardson's head in center. But Gregg got greedy and tried to strech it into a triple and was thrown out by two steps on a beautiful relay from Richardson to Klosterman to Tony Mansolino.
In the top of the fifth, South Carolina strung three singles together, plating Davy Gregg and taking a 2-1 lead.
Perhaps the sign of a great team is its ability to come back immediately, which is just what Vanderbilt did.
In the bottom of the fifth, Richardson struck out, and Warner Jones and Cesar Nicolas got back-to-back walks. After Mike Baxter popped out to short, Mansolino drove the ball down the right field line for a double to score Jones. Then Worth Scott hit a squib back to to relief pitcher Art Hempy, who bobbled it twice allowing Scott to reach first and Nicolas to score. Vandy took a 3-2 lead and never looked back.
In the top of the sixth it appeared South Carolina would come back when Brendan Winn laced one to the base of the wall in left, but Aaron Garza played the ball perfectly and rifled a throw to second to nail Winn. Sowers, meanwhile, was just getting stronger. In the top of the seventh, the Commodore ace struck out two of the three batters he faced, and appeared to have the South Carolina batters confused.
The bottom of the seventh provided Vandy some breathing room, as Baxter and Mansolino both drew walks, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on an Aaron Garza two-out single to center.
The top of the eighth saw the Gamecocks lose another opportunity. A leadoff double by Brian Triplett went for nought as the next three batters stuck out, ending any threat. The bottom of the eighth provide one huge highlight, as Nicolas tattooed a Zac McCamie pitch and placed it on top of the swimming pool roof in left to put VU up 6-2.
The top of the ninth started in dramatic fashion. Brendan Winn drove the ball to the deepest part of centerfield, but Antoan Richardson made a marvelous leaping catch at the warning track to rob Winn of a multi-base hit. The last two Carolina batters went quietly, and Vandy had locked up a key SEC victory over one of the nation's best teams.
"It was just a matter of not making mistakes," said Sowers, who improved his record to 5-1. "That team over there is the best hitting team I have faced. I got away with a couple of mistakes early in the game. You get over that as a pitcher. I wasn't putting it where I wanted to, but then we scored those four runs in the fifth and seventh innings and that made me a little more comfortable. We got the win and it is always important to get home wins in the SEC."
Sophomore Warner Jones' remarkable SEC-record hitting streak came to an end, as Jones went 0-for-3. Jones scored one run, drove in another, walked and struck out twice, but did not produce a hit.
The sellout crowd (fifth this year) of 1763, stayed until the end to celebrate with the home team. The same two teams square off again Saturday afternoon at Hawkins Field at 2 p.m. CT (Fox Sports Net) and Sunday at 1 p.m.