Jackie Bradley Jr. was wearing a black bracelet Friday that read “Omaha ’09”.
Friday’s goal for Bradley and the USC baseball team was a bit more modest — win for the first time in 10 days.
To do that, the Gamecocks would utilize almost every scoring method: homers, a suicide squeeze and help from the opposition in the form of walks and an error.
Along with another lengthy pitching performance from Sam Dyson, it was enough as USC opened a critical SEC series against Vanderbilt with an 8-5 win.
“It’s very important,” said Bradley, the freshman whose three hits included a two-run homer. “We’re trying to stick it together, finish off strong.”
USC (28-18, 10-12 SEC) snapped a four-game losing streak. They also put some distance between themselves and Auburn (8-11 in the SEC), the ninth-place team in the league after Friday’s game. The top eight teams make the SEC tournament.
The Gamecocks also moved within a half-game of Vanderbilt (10-11 in the SEC.)
“We’re just trying to live to see another day,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. “There’s a lot of pressure on a lot of us. A lot of teams are looking and thinking, we’ve gotta do this, we’ve gotta do that to play at the end of the year, to get to Hoover.”
The story at the outset was USC’s offense against Vanderbilt ace Mike Minor. Bradley, Justin Dalles and Nick Ebert each homered in the first three innings.
By the end, Dyson was the story after making 139 pitches and getting pulled with one out left in the game.
“He was probably seven or eight past the limit,” Tanner said.
Dyson shrugged off a question about his high pitch count.
“You have seven days to recover. It’s not like you’re in the bigs and have five,” he said. “I mean, I took a couple days off during the week. I had a pretty good chance to relax and get going.”
Dyson gave up a homer to the game’s second batter, Steven Liddle, who hit a car parked across the street in right field.
But Bradley’s homer in the bottom of the inning started USC’s run.
Minor had not given up seven runs in game since midway through his sophomore season. He gave up that many in the first four innings Friday.
“The thing that I think hurt him tonight was he was maybe too accurate, if that makes any sense,” Ebert said. “He was around the plate the whole night, and we were swinging at almost everything that came in. Guys had some good approaches out there.”
But even with the homers flying, Tanner decided to play some small ball. Whit Merrifield laid down a suicide squeeze in the second inning to score Scott Wingo.
Minor also walked in a run in the fourth inning after loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter.
The Gamecocks’ final run, in the seventh, came when Vanderbilt left fielder Joe Loftus couldn’t handle a deep fly ball.
“It’s awesome to get back in the winning column,” Ebert said.
Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.
|Harris ss||4||1||0||0||Merrifield cf||3||0||0||1|
|Liddle rf||4||2||2||1||Mack lf||4||1||1||0|
|Casali 1b||4||1||2||2||Ebert 1b||4||1||2||2|
|Giobbi c||5||0||0||1||Bradley rf||5||1||3||2|
|Westlake dh||3||0||0||0||Crisp 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Loftus lf||4||0||0||0||Dalles c||4||1||1||1|
|Reynolds 2b||4||0||1||1||Bangs dh||2||1||0||0|
|Esposito 3b||4||0||1||0||Jones ph||1||0||1||0|
|White cf||4||1||3||0||Rihn pr||0||1||0||0|
|Minor L, 4-4||5||ð||9||7||7||4||1|
|Dyson W, 7-3||8||ð||9||5||5||2||7|
|Farotto S, 6||Ð||0||0||0||0||1|
Umpires—Home, Kennedy; first, Chapman; third, Henderson.