Gamecocks outduel Vandy, clinch bye in SEC tourney

uscbase-englishbuntEighth-ranked South Carolina batted around in the eighth inning to score four runs on the way to a 6-3 win over ninth ranked Vanderbilt to win the rubber game of a three-game SEC series at Hawkins Field. The Gamecocks are 42-14 and 18-12 in the SEC with Vanderbilt 40-16 and 17-13 in league play.

Tied at 2-2 entering the top of the eighth inning, the Gamecocks loaded bases with a walk to former Conway High standout Jordan Gore, an error on a sac bunt attempt that put Gene Cone on base and a one-out walk to Marcus Mooney. With left-hander Ben Bowden on in relief for the Commodores, Kyle Martin knocked the first pitch he saw for a base hit to center scoring Gore. Vanderbilt would change pitchers one more time as right-hander Brian Miller entered. With two outs and the bases still loaded, Joey Pankake knocked a base hit up the middle that went off of Miller’s glove to push the lead to a pair of runs. DC Arendas would keep it going as he struck with a two-run single to right field that gave the Gamecocks a 6-2 lead. Dansby Swanson would drive in a run with a two-out single for Vanderbilt in the eighth inning but that was it as right-hander Joel Seddon pitched two scoreless innings of relief to close it out with four strikeouts to pick up his 15th save of the year.

Seddon came in relief of freshman right-hander Wil Crowe, who had his best outing in conference play. Crowe allowed three runs on four hits in seven-plus innings with no walks and tied a career-high with nine strikeouts. Crowe did not allow a runner to reach six of the innings he pitched in the contest. He is 7-3 on the year. Vanderbilt reliever Adam Ravenelle suffered the loss and is now 3-1 for the year. He allowed three runs, one earned, on one hit with three walks and a strikeout.

Eight of the nine Gamecocks had at least one hit with all nine reaching base. South Carolina had 13 hits to seven by Vanderbilt. Marcus Mooney went 3-for-4 with two runs scored with Martin, Pankake and Gore with two hits apiece as well. Swanson and Zander Wiel were 2-for-4 to lead Vanderbilt at the plate.

“It was an incredible game and incredible performance by Wil (Crowe),” said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. “It was one of the biggest games of the year for us, a freshman was out there (on the mound) on the road, we had freshmen up and down the lineup and they played their hearts out. We had some opportunities to score early, I thought that might come back to bite us, but the big four-run inning gave us a little bit of breathing room but I never felt comfortable against that team.”

Pankake gave the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. Mooney led off with a single and scored on Pankake’s two-out hit to right-center.

Crowe pitched three perfect innings before Vanderbilt struck for a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning. With one out and Xavier Turner on first base, the Commodores employed a hit and run and Bryan Reynolds lifted a double to left field scoring Turner. Wiel would follow that up with a RBI base hit to left field giving Vandy a one-run lead.

South Carolina tied it at 2-2 in the sixth inning. former St. James standout Tanner English led off with a base hit. A sac bunt by Gore and a throwing error by Vanderbilt reliever John Kilichowski gave the Gamecocks runners on the corners with no outs. English would eventually score on a wild pitch.

The Gamecocks will be back in action at the 2014 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. South Carolina have a bye and seeded fourth in the SEC Tournament. South Carolina will face the winner of No.5 Mississippi State-No. 12 Georgia in the final game on Wednesday night. The tournament is single elimination on Tuesday, double elimination from Wednesday-Friday with single elimination games on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday.

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