The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks pick up critical series win with 3-2 victory over No. 5 Vanderbilt


This wasn’t a series South Carolina was supposed to win.

Then again, this wasn’t a position in which the Gamecocks were supposed to be in the first place.

Needing a quality weekend of play against No. 4 Vanderbilt in order to improve its NCAA tournament hopes, South Carolina delivered and earned a series win against the Commodores with a 3-2 victory in Saturday’s rubber match.

For the second straight game, South Carolina relied on its offense to back up another solid pitching performance. A three-run sixth inning spearheaded by a triple via junior second baseman Max Schrock helped the Gamecocks overcome a 2-0 deficit.

After Cody Mincey pitched the first out of the inning, South Carolina sophomore pitcher Taylor Widener closed things out, retiring the final eight batters of the ballgame as the Gamecocks won back to back league contests for the first time since March 14 and March 15.

By no means does its most recent success mean that South Carolina is out of the woods yet, nor does it mean the Gamecocks are destined to turn around what’s been a rough year. But the way South Carolina played against the Commodores does offer hope for a team that had lost four consecutive SEC series.

“I don’t know if I can put words into describing what it means to our team and the morale in our locker room,” South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook said. “It’s been a tough stretch and our guys didn’t give up after Thursday night. It didn’t look so hot, but boy, they responded the right way.”

Holbrook’s players felt the same.

“It was real critical for our confidence,” Schrock said. “We were scuffling and these two wins just showed that if we all come together and all play together, we can be a really good team.”

Taking two out of three games from a talented Vanderbilt team will have that type of effect on a locker room that had been filled with gloom and self-loathe in the past few weeks.

While the Gamecocks’ dramatic win on Friday was a crucial one, Holbrook stressed the importance of regrouping and putting together another solid performance against the Commodores, something his group proved capable of.

One day following a masterful 9-inning outing by junior pitcher Jack Wynkoop, freshman Clarke Schmidt,sophomore Cody Mincey and Widener combined for 11 strikeouts, while giving up only two runs over nine innings of work.

Mincey, who replaced Schmidt, tossed three innings of scoreless baseball and kept the Gamecocks in the game before the South Carolina offense stepped up, something that didn’t seem likely for the first half of the game.

Held scoreless through the first five innings, South Carolina turned the game around in the sixth frame as Schrock’s triple to right-center plated junior third baseman DC Arendas.

The Gamecocks’ final two runs came on RBI singles by freshman designated hitter Alex Destino and sophomore catcher Logan Koch, both unexpected heroes at the plate.

Before Saturday’s game, Destino and Koch had been batting .083 and .152 in SEC play, respectively.But both players picked up the Gamecocks even when their most reliable hitters struggled.

“I got asked earlier, ‘How did you win with K. Martin and Elliott going 2-18?'” Koch said. “You know, it’s a team game.”

The same can be said regarding South Carolina’s pitching. Although Schmidt only pitched 3.1 innings and gave up two runs, he worked out of multiple jams before Mincey, who had a 7.27 ERA in league play prior to his last outing,kept Vanderbilt at bay.

Ultimately, it was Widener who finished the job, striking out four batters as South Carolina earned the pivotal win.

For Holbrook, the past few weeks have been tough, but nothing he and his team couldn’t overcome. In recent days, he’s noticed an attitude change in his players.

“I just think that they became concerned with us instead of me,” Holbrook said. “That’s just what I believe. That takes some pressure off when you start worrying about each other instead of worrying about yourself.”

South Carolina now looks to carry its newfound momentum into its next four road games as the Gamecocks face Furman on Tuesday before playing a series with Tennessee next weekend.

“Hopefully, we can just ride the momentum of these past few games,” Schrock said.


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