How South Carolina baseball swept doubleheader over No. 3 Vanderbilt

South Carolina needed something good to happen this weekend. Make no mistake about it, the Gamecocks haven’t been bad. They’ve won most of the games they were expected to, but a 1-4 record against teams from Power Five conferences didn’t look good.

Enter Vanderbilt, one of the hottest teams in the country and ranked No. 3 in the most recent D1 baseball poll. The Commodores were riding a 14-game winning streak and sat atop the conference standings after sweeping Auburn last weekend.

After being washed out on Friday night, South Carolina used solid pitching and timely hitting to sweep a doubleheader on Saturday, winning 8-4 and 8-3 to earn the series victory. They will go for the series sweep Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

“It would be harder to think that we can play better than we did today, against the No. 3 team in the country on a long winning streak,” South Carolina coach Mark Kingston said. “Our guys were incredible, all day. Pitching, offense, defense, that’s as good as you can play baseball in my opinion.”

Last weekend, all seven home teams won their SEC series.

“The home court is so important in our league,” Kingston said. “When you have good versus good versus good all the time, home field is important. Our crowd was really good. The electricity in the ballpark was really good. Our guys fed off that.”

The Gamecocks (18-5, 3-2 SEC) rode the masterful pitching of Eli Jones in the first game. The junior right-hander retired the first 18 batters he faced before giving way to Chris Veach with one out in the seventh inning. Jones only allowed one hit and one walk, but both of those runners ended up scoring to tie the score at 2.

That’s where the offense that has struggled with runners in scoring position came alive. South Carolina took advantage of two Commodore miscues in the field and plated five unearned runs in the seventh inning. The big blow came with the bases loaded and two outs with Ethan Petry at the plate. The preseason All-American hit a drive to the warning track in left-center that was mis-played by the Vandy center fielder after a long run, scoring all three.

Winning the first game lifted a lot of pressure off a team that came into the weekend 13th in the SEC in batting average at .280 and struggling with runners in scoring position.

“We’ve felt the pressure with runners on base and we felt like we had to get a hit,” Petry said. “One day, we were like just go hit the ball. We started hitting, having a lot of fun and things started clicking. You the big two-out hits and it’s great to see.”

The second game is when the two preseason All-Americans, Petry and Cole Messina, flexed their muscles. The Commodores (19-5, 3-2) jumped to a 3-1 lead before the Gamecocks came storming back. It began with a four-run fifth inning. Blake Jackson got it started with an RBI double and he scored on a groundout but Parker Noland to tie it at three.

Messina hit his ninth home run of the season, a two-run shot, into a biting wind to leftfield. That shot gave the Gamecocks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Petry, who homered in his first at-bat to extend his on base streak to 33 games, homered to right field on the first pitch of the sixth inning. One out later, Tyler Causey hit one into the Vanderbilt bullpen for a 7-3 lead.

Petry, who finished the two games going 3-for-4 with two home runs, four walks, four RBIs and three runs score, added the final run with a single to right. Messina was on base five times as well with three RBI on the day.

“It starts with our two big dogs in the middle,” Kingston said of Petry and Messina. “When they’re taking really good at-bats, then everything falls in line behind it and we look like a really good offense. It speaks to what we’re capable of.”

Garett Gainey earned the save in both wins. He came on with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning of the second game and got a strikeout to get out of the jam. Gainey pitched a total of 2.2 innings and didn’t allow a hit while striking out four and no walks.

Next: South Carolina and Vanderbilt conclude the three-game series Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Kingston didn’t name a starter yet, but Roman Kimble or Matthew Becker are the most likely candidates. Vanderbilt will counter with Devin Futrell (2-0, 4.67 ERA).

South Carolina baseball schedule

  • Sunday: vs. Vanderbilt, 1:30 pm (SEC Network Plus)

  • Tuesday: vs. Presbyterian, 6:30 pm (SEC Network Plus)

  • Thursday: at Alabama, 8 pm (SEC Network)

  • Friday: at Alabama, 7 pm (SEC Network Plus)

  • Saturday: at Alabama, 2 (SEC Network Plus)