Volunteers battle past Gamecocks in late innings

No. 10-ranked South Carolina held a one-run lead entering the eighth inning but Tennessee rallied with single runs in both the eighth and ninth innings on the way to a 5-4 win over the Gamecocks on Friday evening in the series opener in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242 fans at Carolina Stadium.

Tennessee is now 20-10 and 6-4 in the SEC with the loss dropping Carolina to 21-9 and 3-7 in league play. Game two of the series is scheduled for 8 p.m.

After a two-run single by Christian Walker put the Gamecocks ahead 4-3 in the sixth inning, the Volunteers looked to make a rally. In the top of the eighth inning, Zach Luther led off with a double to the gap in left-center. After a walk to Drew Steckenrider, both runners were sacrificed over into scoring position. Luther would score the tying run on a RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Chris Fritts.

With the score deadlocked at 4-4 in the top of the ninth, Zach Osborne singled with one out and advanced to third on Will Maddox’s base hit to right field. Luther was down to an 0-2 count against Gamecock reliever Matt Price and still attempted to a squeeze bunt. On the bunt, Luther popped up to Price for the second out. The Gamecock right-hander attempted to double off Osborne at third base but his throw sailed just high and off the tip of the glove of Gamecock shortstop Joey Pankake and Osborne scurried home with the go ahead run.

Tennessee brought in closer Nick Blount in the bottom of the ninth inning. He worked a perfect inning of relief though a ball that Walker turned on went foul with plenty of distance and designated hitter Brison Celek flew out to the warning track in center field to end the game.

Along with serving as the designated hitter, Steckenrider also pitched and hurled 2.1 scoreless innings to pick up the win. He is now 3-2 on the year. He allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out six batters. Price took the loss and is now 3-3 on the year. He allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits in 2.2 innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

Tennessee had 10 hits with Maddox, Luther and Chris Pierce with two apiece. Evan Marzilli was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and Grayson Greiner tallied two hits as well to lead the Gamecocks at the plate.

The Volunteers went ahead 1-0 in the top of the third inning. Ethan Bennett doubled with one out to left-center and scored on Will Maddox’s two-out double that also went to the gap in left-center.

South Carolina broke ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Evan Marzilli led off with a single to left field. He has reached base all 30 games this year. A sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch moved him over to third base. With one out, Christian Walker knocked a hard grounder down the third base line that was fielded by UT third baseman Zach Luther. On the play, Luther’s throw was muffed by Tennessee first baseman Davis Morgan allowing Walker to make his way to second and scoring Marzilli. With two outs, LB Dantzler drove a ball into center field that UT’s Chris Fritts could not come up with and Dantzler reached base with a RBI double scoring Walker.

Tennessee regained the lead in the top of the sixth on a two-run homer by Drew Steckenrider. Maddox reached base for the second time of the game on a hit by pitch. With one out and Maddox on second base, Steckenrider drove a 1-2 pitch from Roth over the left field wall for his fifth home run of the season giving the Volunteers a 3-2 lead. The home run was also the first allowed of the year by Roth.

The Gamecocks answered in the bottom half of the sixth to go ahead 4-3 on a two-run single from Christian Walker. The inning would begin with walks to both Adam Matthews and Chase Vergason. Pinch hitter Sean Sullivan would try to sacrifice the runners over but Matthews was nabbed at third base on the bunt attempt. With runners still on first and second base, Marzilli would single to right field. On the play, Sullivan would get caught in a rundown between second and third base. After a walk to Pankake loaded the bases, Walker drilled a RBI single up the middle scoring a pair of runners and giving the Gamecocks a one-run lead

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