Friday, May 27, 2011

Vanderbilt breaks the game open in the 9th, defeats top-ranked South Carolina

HOOVER, Alabama -- The dateline says Hoover. The atmosphere said somewhere else. Namely, Omaha.
Top-ranked South Carolina and No. 2 Vanderbilt battled for a day off in the SEC Tournament Thursday night at Regions Park in a showdown of national behemoths.
Vanderbilt prevailed 7-2 in what could be a glimpse of a June game in Nebraska, full of clutch pitching until the final inning.
The Commodores are idle until 9:30 a.m. Saturday, when they face Friday's Alabama-Arkansas winner. South Carolina goes back to work Friday against Georgia following the 3 p.m. first game.
South Carolina knows the way to Omaha already. The Gamecocks are the reigning College World Series champ and have made four trips to baseball's amateur Mecca. Vanderbilt, despite its recent SEC dominance, is still looking for its first ticket there.
Vanderbilt (46-9) struck first, when Anthony Gomez drew a one-out walk in the first and scored on Aaron Westlake's double. Westlake quickly made it 2-0 when he scored on a passed ball.
Conrad Gregor expanded the lead to 3-1 in the third on an RBI single and the Commodores broke the game open in the ninth with three bunts, including two suicide squeezes, and another run-scoring single.
South Carolina (45-13) got on the board in the bottom of the second, but it proved costly. Catcher Brady Thomas led off with a walk, but aggravated a tender ankle he first injured last week against Alabama and had to be replaced by pinch-runner DeSean Anderson, who eventually scored on a ground out.
Adrian Morales added an RBI single in the fourth.
South Carolina's next big threat came in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with two outs. But Vanderbilt reliever Corey Williams coaxed a force out to end the threat.
Vanderbilt ace Sonny Gray pitched into the seventh, striking out seven, to improve to 10-3. Forrest Koumas suffered his first loss of the season in seven decisions.
Thursday's showdown was interrupted by a power surge that temporarily dimmed the Regions Park lights, forcing a 16-minute delay.
Thursday's second session drew a crowd of 7,123 for the Alabama-Florida/Vanderbilt-South Carolina doubleheader.
The two SEC powerhouses won't meet again in Hoover unless they face off in Sunday's championship game.
If you're looking for a parallel to South Carolina's national title run last year, forget it. The Gamecocks were two-and-done in Hoover before going on a postseason NCAA tournament tear

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