NASHVILLE, Tenn. South Carolina slugger Christian Walker seemed to feel some of the weight falling off his shoulders.
It took the junior first baseman one swing to end a day’s worth — and maybe a half-season’s worth — of frustration.
“Thank God, I was getting tired and this 13 innings, whatever it was, it’s a lot of baseball,” said Walker, whose towering home run in the top of the 13th lifted the No. 11 Gamecocks past Vanderbilt for a 6-4 win on Sunday at Hawkins Field and gave USC its first SEC series win of the season.
Walker’s homer was hit hard off Vanderbilt reliever Philip Pfeifer (0-1) but still barely cleared Vanderbilt’s 35-foot-high fence in left field.
“Yeah, but it was one of those you kind of just knew. I’ve hit that ball a couple times,” Walker said. “I felt it off the bat and kind of knew I had enough, but it was pretty suspenseful watching it try to get over that white line.”
The Gamecocks (20-8, 3-6 SEC) led 4-0 early but gave up three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to allow the Commodores to tie the game.
Jordan Montgomery (2-0) picked up the win for South Carolina in two innings of relief, following a gutsy, six-inning relief outing from Matt Price.
“Montgomery comes in and pitches pretty well,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said with a laugh. “That’s impressive for a guy that thought that Vanderbilt was in North Carolina.
“We hit the Tennessee border the other day, and he wanted to know where we were going. He thought Vandy was located in North Carolina. Sometimes, it’s better not to know, isn’t it?”
USC had a season-high five errors in an exciting but sloppy game. Vanderbilt (11-17, 3-6) finished with three errors. The Commodores had the winning run on third base in the 11th and 12th innings, but Price and Montgomery stranded the runners.
Gamecocks starter Colby Holmes carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up consecutive singles to start the frame. Holmes left with a 4-1 lead but was charged with three runs.
LB Dantzler hit a solo home run in the fourth inning off Vanderbilt start Will Clinard and added a two-run single in the fifth to give South Carolina the early 4-0 lead.
But after the Commodores battled back, the Gamecocks, aside from their errors, kept their cool as South Carolina capped the season’s first half with a win.
“We came out big. We came out and fought every inning today. It might not show on the scoreboard, five errors, but our goals stayed tough and Walker, of course, stayed big for us,” Price said.
“We thought we didn’t have the best first half (of the season). We won some close games, and we lost some close ones. We’ll just go out there and play the way we’ve been playing.”
Added Tanner: “Neither team really wanted to give in. We both played poorly, at times, defensively, but we were gutting it out, they were gutting it out. It’s a great road win in a rubber game for us.”
“It’s only the third (SEC series), I guess, but there’s some relief in winning it.”
|Marzilli cf||6||2||1||0||Kemp lf||5||0||2||2|
|Pankake ss||7||1||2||0||Gomez ss||4||0||0||0|
|Walker 1b||5||2||3||2||Yastrzemski rf||5||1||1||0|
|Celek dh||5||0||2||1||Gregor 1b||6||0||0||0|
|Costen pr/dh||2||0||1||0||Navin c||3||1||1||0|
|Dantzler 3b||6||1||2||3||Conde 3b||5||1||1||1|
|Matthews rf||4||0||0||0||Harrell cf||6||0||1||0|
|Payne 2b||3||0||1||0||Reynolds 2b||4||0||0||1|
|Roth ph||0||0||0||0||Norwood ph||1||0||0||0|
|Vergason 2b||0||0||0||0||Lupo dh||2||1||1||0|
|English lf||6||0||0||0||Castellano dh||2||0||0||0|
|Rosenberg c||3||0||0||0||Harvey ph||1||0||0||0|
EDP—S. Carolina 1; VU 1. LOB—S. Carolina 13; VU 10. 2B—Pankake 2 (5); Kemp 2 (6). HR—Walker (6); Dantzler (5). HBP—Navin. SH—Roth (1); Vergason (3); Conde (3). SF—Reynolds (1). SB—Payne (2); Kemp (6); Yastrzemski (4). CS—Costen (2).
|Pfeifer L,0-1||1 1/3||3||2||2||1||0|
WP—Price (2); VerHagen (4). HBP—by Price (Navin). PB—Navin (6). Umpires—HP: Morris Hodges 1B: Randolph Harvey 3B: Scott Kennedy. T—3:48. A—2,851.