By Jordan Dominick || After back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia on Thursday and Friday, the top-seeded University of South Carolina baseball team was eliminated from the SEC Tournament.
The Gamecocks (45-14) fell to Vanderbilt on Thursday by a score of 7-2 – although the game was much closer than the final tally would indicate.
The Commodores jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first – a lead Carolina was able to cut in half in the bottom of the second stanza. Inserted as a pinch runner, freshman outfielder DeSean Anderson made his way to third base on a Vanderbilt throwing error before being driven in on a ground out by junior outfielder Jake Williams.
Vanderbilt added another run in the top of the third inning, but the Gamecocks once again pulled within one in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore infielder Christian Walker started off the inning with a single to left field. Williams then grounded out allowing Walker to reach third base, at which point senior second baseman Adrian Morales drove him in with an RBI single.
The Commodores’ lead held at 3-2 until the top of the ninth – which is when they exploded for four runs, ending any hope of a USC comeback.
Thursday’s defeat forced top-ranked Carolina into an elimination game against Georgia on Friday. As was the case against Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks struggled early – giving up three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
The Gamecocks started the second inning strong with three consecutive singles by Williams, Morales, and sophomore outfielder Evan Marzilli. Marzilli’s single to center field allowed Williams to score giving them their first run of the night. Two batters later, USC had the bases loaded and only one out after junior Steven Neff was walked. However, Georgia was able to escape without any further damage being done by striking out Anderson and getting junior infielder Peter Mooney to fly out to right field.
Georgia matched the Gamecocks in the bottom of the second with a run of their own – pushing the lead to 4-1.
In the top of the third inning, the Gamecocks squandered another big opportunity, scoring a run but leaving three men on base when catcher Robert Beary grounded into a double play to end the inning. The Bulldogs’ 4-2 lead held for the final six innings. Carolina had plenty of chances to take the lead but fell short – leaving nine men on base.
The good news is that the season isn’t over for the defending national champions. In fact, the most important games are still left to be played. After all, Carolina didn’t win the SEC Tournament last year, either – but they won the only tournament that truly matters.
On Sunday, the Gamecocks learned that they will be one of sixteen schools to host an NCAA regional – and receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Regional action will commence on Friday, June 3.