There was little South Carolina relief pitcher Patrick Sullivan could do but wait as he watched the bunt by Vanderbilt’s Anthony Gomez rolling toward the white chalk of the first-base foul line.
The ball never quite made it far enough. Instead, it skidded to a halt, smack in the middle of the chalk line.
After Saturday’s ugly 12-4 loss to the Commodores at Hawkins Field, the Gamecocks will surely be seeing Vanderbilt bunt highlights in their sleep.
“I tried to let it roll foul, but it just kind of sat there so there’s nothing I could do,” Sullivan said of Gomez’s bunt single in the fourth inning and the second of three RBI bunts on the day for the Commodores (11-16, 3-5 SEC). “There’s not a whole lot you can do, just keep throwing strikes and try to make outs.”
Two of Vanderbilt’s bunt RBIs came in that spirit-breaking seven-run fourth.
Now, how will the Gamecocks (19-8, 2-6) put this loss behind them?
“Just try not to remember it,” said Forrest Koumas, who gave up the first bunt RBI earlier in the fourth. “Every day’s a new day, just go out and pound the zone.”
The pitching struggles were spread around for the Gamecocks and the hitting wasn’t much better.
Starter Evan Beal was charged with four runs after being pulled with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth for Koumas.
“I feel like I was effective, just couldn’t get it done today,” said Beal, who looked sharp in his first three innings of work.
But the fourth inning would not seem to end even after Beal went to the bench.
“Yeah, they kept chipping away, I guess. They didn’t really square too many balls up but they got hits when they needed them,” Beal said. “Pat Sullivan gave up (what seemed like) five bunt hits. They were playing small ball. It’s effective. That’s what they do.”
Koumas gave up three runs and Sullivan and Logan Munson gave up two runs apiece. Joel Seddon gave up a solo home run to Vanderbilt pinch-hitter Connor Castellano in the eighth to give the Commodores a 12-1 lead.
The Gamecocks, meanwhile, scored three of their four runs on infield ground balls, two coming in the ninth with the game out of reach.
Vanderbilt freshman Tyler Beede looked as sharp as he has all year in his start for the Commodores. He gave up one run and five hits while striking out seven batters in a career-high six innings.
Beede was drafted in the first round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft but spurned a reported $2.5-million offer from the Toronto Blue Jays to pitch at Vanderbilt.
“That seven-run fourth was really tough for us, compiled with how good Beede was. He was really special today,” South Carolina Coach Ray Tanner said. “He had that changeup going. It was one of those situations. I was hoping we could keep it pretty close in the middle innings.
“They had a lot of things go right for them. They had some clutch hitting. They did a really good job in the fourth.”
Saturday’s loss comes on the heels of an 8-3 South Carolina win on Friday. The Gamecocks can clinch their first conference series of the season with a win on Sunday if they can bounce back from what was a difficult Saturday loss.
“I think we’re in a situation right now where they’re all big games,” Tanner said. “I’ve said it for many years, every game we play is important. The emphasis to importance has gone to another level.
“There’s certainly a lot of time left but you want to take care of business whenever you can.”
Then Tanner, whose Gamecocks will pitch Colby Holmes (3-0) in Sunday’s 2 p.m. series finale, thought back to one of those bunts.
“We’ve got to get outs. You’ve got to get a few breaks in this game and they had a big inning (on Saturday). Sometimes that ball rolls foul and sometimes it just stays on the line and today it just stayed on the line.”