South Carolina (45-15) won its first ever SEC Tournament championship, and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. After its three wins in the tournament, however, Vanderbilt is also a lock to be one of eight or nine SEC teams to receive an NCAA invite when destinations and pairings are announced Monday morning.
"It was a really tough one. We came out here and played our hearts out, and that's all we could do," said VU catcher Jonathan Douillard. "But we still have more baseball to play, so we have to let this one soak in, get it out of our heads and play more baseball."
The Commodores, which had won tournament games on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to breeze into the championship game, faced a Gamecock team which had also advanced to the championship game on three straight wins.
Vanderbilt took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth when Jonathan Douillard singled in Worth Scott from third. Scott had singled, stolen second, and moved to third on an error.
South Carolina answered with two runs in the sixth to take a 3-2 lead that would hold up for the rest of the contest. The Gamecocks strung together a series of singles to knock out starter Jeff Sues, who was ultimately charged with his first loss of the season.
Vanderbilt threatened in the ninth, when South Carolina allowed the tying run to reach first base on an error. But Chad Blackwell got Ryan Klosterman to hit into a game-ending, 3-6-3 double play (right, AP photo Haraz Ghanbari).
South Carolina's only other run came in the first inning, when Kevin Melillo singled in Landen Powell. Vanderbilt matched the run in the bottom of the first when a Warner Jones single drove in Klosterman from third.
Starter Zac McCamie pitched 7-1/3 solid innings for the Gamecocks, before being relieved by Blackwell. Stephen Shao relieved Vandy starter Jeff Sues with no outs in the sixth, and he and Jensen Lewis both pitched two scoreless innings of relief.
Vanderbilt had not played in the SEC Tournament championship game since 1980, the year the Dores won their first and only SEC Tournament championship.
"Vanderbilt is a great team, I know that," said victorious South Carolina coach Ray Tanner. "I'd definitely pick them to win a regional."
The SEC announced Sunday that five of its teams had been selected to host NCAA Regionals, but Vanderbilt was not among them. South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss will all host regionals next weekend.
Five Commodores were named to the All-Tournament Team, the most from any single team. Pitcher Jeremy Sowers, catcher Jonathan Douillard, designated hitter Cesar Nicolas, second baseman Warner Jones and shortstop Ryan Klosterman all made the team.