March 30, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Christian Walker tallied his first two-homer game of his Gamecock career, senior left-hander Michael Roth allowed just three runs in six-plus innings of work to improve to 3-0 and junior right-hander Matt Price pitched three hitless innings of relief for his first save of the year as 10th ranked South Carolina defeated Vanderbilt 8-3 in the series opener at Hawkins Field. South Carolina improves to 19-7 and 2-5 in the SEC while Vanderbilt drops to 10-16 and 2-5 in league play. Friday's game was played in front of a season-high 2,525 fans at Vanderbilt.
Walker now leads the Gamecocks with five homers for the season. He was 2-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBI for the evening. Tanner English was 2-for-5 with a run scored as well. Brison Celek drove in a pair of runs.
South Carolina starter Michael Roth allowed three runs on five hits in six-plus innings of work. He walked one and struck out three. Price had five strikeouts and just one walk in three hitless innings of relief to pick up the save. Price's save was his 31st of his career, making him the all-time saves leader in South Carolina history passing the previous mark of 30 held by Rob Mosser (1990-93). Vanderbilt starter Kevin Ziomek allowed six runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings with four walks and six strikeouts in a loss for the Commodores. He is now 2-4 for the season.
Walker's 200th career hit was a solo home run in the top of the first inning to give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead. Walker roped a 0-2 pitch from Ziomek over the left-centerfield wall.
With a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, the Gamecocks batted around and scored five runs to increase the advantage to 6-0 against the Commodores. English led off with a bunt for a base hit and Adam Matthews followed with his own bunt single. Evan Marzilli would drive in English with a RBI single up the middle. Marzilli has reached base in all 26 games this year. After a sacrifice bunt by Joey Pankake moved the runners into scoring position, Vanderbilt elected to intentionally walk Walker to load the bases for Celek. With one out, Celek crushed a two-run double off the Green Monster wall in left field. Erik Payne would add a sacrifice fly and LB Dantzler had a two-out RBI base hit.
"It was good to see (five runs in the third), a great feeling (in the dugout) there," said head coach Ray Tanner. "We knew there were a lot of innings left. We haven't put up too many of those numbers."
Vanderbilt responded in the bottom of the fourth inning with a pair of runs. Anthony Gomez led off with an infield base hit and after advancing to second base on Pankake's throwing error would score by Mike Yastrzemski's RBI double. Conrad Gregor would follow with a RBI base hit up the middle to make it 6-2. Roth dug deep though and got a 4-6-3 double play against Spencer Navin and struck out Drew Fann to keep the Commodore run total at two runs.
It remained that way until the top of the seventh inning when Walker struck with his second homer of the game. After Joey Pankake led off with a base hit, Walker hit his second round tripper of the day, just clearing the Green Monster wall in left field.
South Carolina held an 8-2 lead but Vanderbilt looked to rally one more time in the bottom of the seventh. Gregor drew a leadoff walk, Navin singled and Drew Fann reached on a fielding error by Roth on a sacrifice attempt to load the bases with no outs for the Commodores. Vince Conde drove in Gregor with a base hit up the middle to cut Carolina's lead to five runs. Into the game entered Price, who kept the Commodores at bay with a strikeout against Harrell, another strikeout against pinch hitter Connor Castellano and a flyout by Tony Kemp to end the inning and preserve the five-run cushion. Price would set Vanderbilt down in order in the bottom of the eighth and allowed just one out in the ninth and closed the game out with a 3-6-3 double play.
"Roth gave us a quality outing," added Tanner. "He got into a little trouble there, we had to go to Matt (Price) but it was a good win for us on the road on Friday night."
Game two of the series is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. It will be televised live on CSS and Time Warner Cable channel 506 in South Carolina and North Carolina. It can also be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network from IMG College including flagship station, 107.5 FM "The Game." Freshman right-hander Evan Beal (1-2, 3.68 ERA) will make his first career start for the Gamecocks. He will go against Vanderbilt freshman right-hander Tyler Beede (0-3, 6.46 ERA).
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