After being shutout in the first game of the series, the South Carolina baseball team came back to take down the No. 4 Vanderbilt Commodores in the final two games of the series.
The Gamecocks improve to 12-11 on the year and earn their second series win over a top-10 team this season.
South Carolina lost 10-0 Thursday night in game one of the series despite holding the Vanderbilt Commodores scoreless through the first four innings.
Right-handed junior Noah Hall had a solid performance in his fourth start for the Gamecocks, not giving up a single hit until the fifth inning when the Commodores were able to put four runs on the board with its first four hits.
Hall was able to come back out for one more 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, but earned his fourth loss of the season as Vanderbilt continued to build onto its 4-0 lead late into the game.
"A guy like Noah was brought here to be a really key reliever for us and to ask him to throw six innings like he did — I mean he's doing everything he can, he really is," head coach Mark Kingston said after the game.
The bullpen continued to struggle behind Hall, allowing the Commodores to have another big inning in the seventh where they put up another five runs off of right-handed senior pitcher John Gilreath.
Offensively, the Gamecock bats were quiet throughout the game. They finished with just six hits and only got a runner in scoring position twice. South Carolina was unable to advance a runner to third base throughout the entire game.
Freshman Michael Braswell was able to break his hitting slump with a single in the second inning. Senior Josiah Sightler and junior Braylen Wimmer both doubled once, they were the only two players to reach second base all night.
"For us it's just one day at a time, one game at a time," Kingston said.
Under the Friday night lights, South Carolina put the adversity from game one aside and ultimately came out with its first SEC victory of the year, winning 8-2.
"Maybe one of the best games of the year," Kingston said. "I think it all started with Will Sanders. He was really good."
Sanders had a great seven-inning outing — capped off by 11 strikeouts.
"We got a very good defense, and we got good hitters, and we're starting to play together," Sanders said. "It gives me the confidence just to throw strikes and let our defense make plays."
Redshirt freshman Cade Austin relieved Sanders in the eighth inning, pitching two innings and totaling three strikeouts.
The Gamecock offense finally got going after several games of producing hardly any runs. Fifth-year Andrew Eyster had two hits, — including a home run — four RBIs and was responsible for scoring two runs himself.
"When you're up 7-0 and you're facing a guy whose opponent's batting average was .111 coming in, you feel pretty good," Kingston said. "We were able to scratch another run late, which I think really helped."
Other South Carolina players who contributed to the dominant offensive performance were fifth-year Brandt Belk, senior Kevin Madden and Wimmer.
"It was great to see the guys get rewarded," Kingston said. "They've been playing hard, and they're leaving it all out there on the field."
South Carolina secured the series win with an 8-6 victory on Saturday in a high-powered game highlighted by Wimmer’s offensive explosion.
Wimmer notched two home runs, earned five RBIs and gave the Gamecocks a lead in the fifth inning that led to its eventual victory.
“Today was the Braylen Wimmer show,” Kingston said. “He played like one of the best players in the country today.”
The pair of home runs were Wimmer's first of the season after 89 at-bats without going yard.
“I know his dad's in town. Maybe that’s some good mojo for him,” Kingston said.
Wimmer finished with one more hit from a double, which he eventually scored from in the seventh.
“Maybe he needs to start following me around,” Wimmer said, referencing his father's attendance on Saturday.
Madden also played a big part in South Carolina's success with two hits and one RBI in the game.
The Commodores stranded nearly double the amount of runners on base as the Gamecocks, contributing to the loss for the highly ranked squad.
A two-run seventh inning for the Gamecocks added some breathing room for the closers, who kept Vanderbilt to only one additional run.
Freshman Aidan Hunter was awarded the win on the mound and Austin was awarded the save.
All three pitchers South Carolina fielded during game were freshmen — with another four freshmen also getting playing time during the game. Wimmer noted that the experience is vital for the team.
“They’re big pieces, obviously. We’ve got a limited roster, I guess you could say, this year. So they've got to step up and play big roles," Wimmer said after the game.
The Gamecocks will be back in action on Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. to play Presbyterian College at Founders Park.