Vanderbilt’s remarkable run through the SEC schedule continued Saturday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
The No. 2 Commodores rode the strong right arm of sophomore Tyler Beede to a 5-2 victory that clinched the weekend series against No. 15 South Carolina.
Vanderbilt (41-6) collected 14 hits and stole five bases against four USC pitchers to show why it has won 21 of 23 conference games. The Commodores, who have won eight consecutive games, haven’t lost a series all season, while the Gamecocks (33-14, 13-10 SEC) dropped their third conference series.
The hard-throwing Beede, who didn’t sign out of his Massachusetts high school despite being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft by Toronto, allowed two hits and walked four while striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings. In improving to 12-0 in his 12 starts, his ERA went up to 1.71.
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Vanderbilt freshman right-hander Carson Fulmer, who flashed a fastball in the upper 90s, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for his fourth save.
“Obviously, they have power arms,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “They’re a complete team. They can play defense. They can run and steal bases. They can bang some balls out of the park. If you find a weakness, throw it my way. I’ll listen. You don’t do something through 23 games that has never been done in the history of this league and not be a complete team.”
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin realizes his team is putting together a special season.
“We play consistent baseball more than anything,” Corbin said. “There are not many days when we roll through a game, but we don’t hurt ourselves. We don’t give away anything, and we pitch relatively well. It’s been that way since the start of the season.”
USC cut the lead to 5-2 in the seventh inning. After Joey Pankake started the rally with a walk, LB Dantzler broke up Beede’s no-hitter with a single through the right side. Both came around to score, the first on Max Schrock’s RBI single and the second on Sean Sullivan’s RBI single.
But that was it for the Gamecocks, who struggled all day to find an answer for Beede.
“It’s tough to put hits together on him. He walked four, but he pitched around those walks,” Holbrook said. “You can do that when you’ve got stuff like he does. He’s got a big-league fastball, and you very rarely see a guy at the college level with a 93-94 mile an hour fastball and a big-league changeup. There’s a reason why he’s 12-0.”
Beede struggled to find his control early as he went to a number of three-ball counts, but he settled in and let his team make plays behind him.
“I was just trying to find a feel for my pitches and compete in the (strike) zone. I was trying to force contact and get into a rhythm,” Beede said. “I’ve got a great defense. Our outfield tracks on balls that are in the gap, and our infield makes great plays routinely.”
Corbin found a difference-maker when he convinced Beede to come to Vanderbilt.
“You just can’t sit on that fastball because the changeup and breaking ball are pretty good, too,” Corbin said. “He has confidence in them. He doesn’t have a favorite pitch, which is nice. He’s a special kid, and he gets better every time he’s out there.”
On the other side, USC left-hander Jordan Montgomery (3-1) struggled. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first with a double-play ball, but he wasn’t as fortunate in the next two innings.
He hit two batters and allowed two hits, including Jack Lupo’s two-run single, in a three-run second inning, and he allowed another run in the third on Zander Wiel’s two-out RBI single that knocked him out of the game trailing 4-0.
“It can get magnified with a guy like Jordan because he doesn’t have overpowering stuff,” Holbrook said. “If he’s missing just a tad, he can get hurt. He made some really bad two-strike pitches. He got some pitches up over the plate, and they made him pay. There will be brighter days for Jordan.”
The teams play the final game of the series Sunday at noon, an hour earlier than originally scheduled because of a rainy forecast. USC left-hander Jack Wynkoop (6-2) will face Vanderbilt right-hander T.J Pecoraro (2-1).
The Gamecocks hope to avoid being swept for the third time this season.
“We have to bounce back,” Dantzler said. “Nobody wants to get swept at home. We’ve got to come out and play our best baseball. The game could have gone either way (Friday), (and) I don’t have a problem saying they outplayed us (Saturday).”