NASHVILLE-– Sixth-ranked South Carolina opened up a 6-0 lead and held off a late Vanderbilt rally for a 6-3 win Saturday at Hawkins Field before a sellout crowd.
The Gamecocks improved to 22-5, 3-5 in Southeastern Conference play, while No. 25 Vanderbilt dropped to 21-6, 4-4.
Holding a 2-0 lead after five innings, South Carolina scored four runs on six consecutive base hits, including three doubles, to stretch the margin to six.
Following a strikeout by Brendan Winn, Davy Gregg singled to center and scored on a Ryan Mahoney double down the left field line. Mahoney was out at third attempting to stretch his double into a triple. With two away, Tommy King doubled to left field and moved to third on a single by Hank Parks. Bryan Triplett doubled to left field scoring King and moving Parks to third. Michael Campbell hit a two-RBI single scoring King and Parks before Vanderbilt replaced starter Jensen Lewis with Jeff Sues. Sues struggled early with two wild pitches and a walk to load the bases but got out of the jam by striking out Winn.
"The sixth inning was a train wreck for us," Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. "I didn't see the flow of that inning going the way it did, but their hitters are good and we knew that."
The Commodores narrowed the USC lead to three, 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh when Antoan Richardson hit his first home run of the season – a two-out, three-run shot over the right field wall scoring Aaron Garza and Jonathan Douillard.
"It was a 2-0 count and he left the pitch up and I got the barrel of the bat on it," Richardson said of his home run. "At first I didn't think it would stay fair but in the end it curled around the foul pole for me."
Prior to the seventh inning, the Commodores were 0-7 with runners in scoring position. VU stranded nine batters, including two in the second, third, fifth and eighth innings. USC left 10 men on base including three in the sixth.
It looked like the Commodores would continue the comeback in the eighth inning as Cesar Nicolas and Mike Baxter opened the inning with consecutive singles. USC then went to its bullpen as Chad Blackwell relieved starter Aaron Rawl. Blackwell struck out Tony Mansolino and then retired Worth Scott on a pop out to third base. Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch but the threat was ended when Aaron Garza grounded out to end the inning.
"I didn't try a sacrifice with Tony (Mansolino) because I just wanted to see what we could do and thought maybe he would put the ball in the gap," Corbin said.
Vanderbilt was unable to mount a rally in the ninth after Ryan Klosterman reached on an infield single as Blackwell retired the final two batters to earn his SEC-leading seventh save of the year.
Aaron Rawl (6-1) got the win after striking out six and allowing three runs on 11 hits in seven innings. Jensen Lewis (4-1) received the loss after he gave up six runs on 12 hits in 5.2 innings of work.
The Vanderbilt bullpen (Jeff Sues, Stephen Shao and Matt Buschmann) combined for one hit and four strikeouts while not allowing a run in 3.1 innings.
The Gamecocks took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Bryan Triplett scored on a Steve Pearce single to left field. USC added one run in the top of the fifth when Landon Powell’s sacrifice fly scored Michael Campbell who reached base after he was hit by a pitch.
Vanderbilt finished with 12 hits compared to 13 for USC. It marked the 20th time this season that the Commodores have reached double-digits in hits and just the tenth time an opponent has done so.
Vanderbilt and South Carolina will conclude the three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m. CDT at Hawkins Field.