After being upset by unranked Davidson on Wednesday, the South Carolina baseball team traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for a three-game weekend series against the No. 2 Vanderbilt Commodores. Despite losing the first two games, the Gamecocks managed to end the series with a win on Sunday.
South Carolina fell to Vanderbilt 3-2 in its first SEC game of the season after battling through nine innings Friday night.
It was another faceoff of the Friday night pitchers as redshirt junior righthander Thomas Farr and junior righthander Kumar Rocker took the mound for Carolina and Vanderbilt, respectively. The two aces kept the game scoreless and hitless through the first four innings until junior first baseman David Mendham broke the streak for the Gamecocks with a single at the top of the fifth.
"He was outstanding again. He's been outstanding every time he's taken the mound for us — disappointed he didn't get a win out of that," head coach Mark Kingston on Farr said post game.
Farr got his first loss of the season despite a fantastic day on the bump with nine strikeouts in six innings, but allowing three runs on four hits with two errors.
After the game, Farr said his approach did not change much from last week, having all three pitches working for him with an added emphasis on his curveball. He said "not being a two dimensional pitcher and "making sure you have all of them working is always the best way to go at it" for him.
Carolina's offense scored the first two runs on Rocker all season with a double from junior leftfielder Josiah Sightler and a grounded single from junior slugger Wes Clarke in the sixth to answer the two runs that Vanderbilt scored at the bottom of the fifth.
“That game could have gone either way. Two great pitchers, two great defenses, offenses that battled," Kingston said. "Absolutely could have gone either way and disappointed it didn’t go our way tonight.”
Senior right handed pitcher Brannon Jordan started on the mound for the Gamecocks and “pitched very well and gave us a chance to win,” Kingston said. Jordan ended his night with five innings pitched and two earned runs that came via a second inning two-run homer.
This performance, while solid, was overshadowed by Vanderbilt's sophomore right handed pitcher, Jack Leiter. He overwhelmed the Gamecock hitters, throwing a complete game no hitter. If it were not for Braylen Wimmer’s walk on the very first at bat of the game, he would have thrown a perfect game.
Kingston said “got to tip your cap” to an “elite pitching performance,” but he also realizes the team needs “to be much more offensive than we've been for about the last ten days.”
The Commodores went on to score 3 more runs, ending the game with a 5-0 win over the Gamecocks. This marked the sixth straight loss after starting the year with an 11 game winning streak.
Kingston believes that the “pitching and defense has been more than good enough to win” but they “got to figure this offense out,” as South Carolina gets deeper into conference play.
Coach Kingston said that even though it was a “tough day for us but doesn’t mean tomorrow has to be a tough day."
After losing the first two games of the series, the bats regenerated, and the Gamecocks recovered on Sunday afternoon, snapping a six-game losing streak with a 6-5 victory over Vanderbilt.
"They say all wins are equal," said Kingston. "That's not true, this was a big win, in this league, you get 30 chances to play, and you got to take advantage of every one."
The Gamecocks were scoreless until the top of fourth when back-to-back home runs from junior outfielder Brady Allen and sophomore infielder Braylen Wimmer cut the Commodore's lead to 2.
South Carolina took this offensive momentum into the top of the fifth when Allen hit a groundball into a double play, advancing sophomore catcher Colin Burgess to third and sophomore infielder Brennan Milone home. Wimmer bunted to third to bring Burgess in, cutting the score to 5-4.
Later on in the seventh inning, Kingston was ejected after a heated exchange with the umpire at home plate.
The Gamecocks took the lead in the top of the 8th with RBIs from junior Wes Clarke and senior outfielder Andrew Eyster, which gave the Gamecocks their 6-5 victory.
South Carolina will be back home in Founders Park on Tuesday night as it takes on the Citadel Bulldogs for the second time this season. The game is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.