USC Gamecocks Baseball

Gamecocks drop Game 1 of doubleheader to guarantee worst SEC season ever

Another early lead for South Carolina baseball was erased by explosive innings from No. 4 Vanderbilt, as the Gamecocks dropped the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Founders Park, 9-3.

USC (24-22, 5-18 SEC) has now set a program record for most losses in a conference season and is guaranteed to finish the year with its worst winning percentage in league play since joining the SEC in 1992.

As it did Friday in a 22-11 loss, Carolina jumped ahead early, as senior third baseman Jacob Olson and sophomore left fielder Andrew Eyster led off the bottom of the second inning with back-to-back doubles to score one run. A sacrifice bunt by freshman right fielder Brady Allen and sacrifice fly by senior first baseman Chris Cullen plated Eyster to double the lead.

That advantage, however, was short-lived — Vandy loaded the bases with one out in the top of the third with a sharp line drive single, a walk and a bloop fly ball that fell inside the left field line.

Senior Ethan Paul then sent a grounder to first base, where Cullen, after making an outstanding grab to start a double play in the second, missed the ball for a fielding error. Two runs scored to tie the game, and the next batter, sophomore catcher Philip Clarke, chopped a grounder up the middle for an RBI infield single to put Vandy up, 3-2.

Just like Friday, the Gamecocks then got a home run to tie the game back up — this time, Eyster delivered in the bottom half of the fourth with an opposite-field solo home run to right field to knot things at 3.

Vanderbilt edged back ahead in the fifth, but not without controversy. After a leadoff single from sophomore shortstop Austin Martin, junior outfielder JJ Bleday worked a 3-2 count. Martin then took off for second and was thrown out by catcher Luke Berryhill for an apparent strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. The home plate umpire had called ball four, however, putting runners on first and second and infuriating USC coach Mark Kingston.

Those runners executed a double steal during the next at-bat as Berryhill couldn’t gather a swinging strike, and a sacrifice fly pushed a run across to put the Commodores back on top. Vandy then extended its lead in the sixth, first knocking starter Reid Morgan out of the game with a single and walk, and then getting a ground-rule double from Martin off freshman Brett Kerry to make the score 5-3.

The Commodores blew the game open in the seventh, loading the bases against closer Sawyer Bridges with a pair of walks and a single, then getting a two-out single to score a pair of runs and a triple to score two more.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.
  Comments