The season lives on for South Carolina baseball.
The Gamecocks rallied in extra innings, scoring three in the top of the 11th to win 7-4 against Vanderbilt and advance in the SEC Tournament with their first conference tournament win under coach Chad Holbrook.
“It gives us a chance to take a deep breath,” Holbrook said. “Now, we are in the double elimination part of it. We are going to be one of eight teams playing. Everybody is going to be 0-0. It’s a good win for us. We have had some tough ones. I’m not disappointed with our team. We played some pretty darn good baseball. We’ve had some things not go our way.
“I’m tickled to death they get to experience this big win and, hopefully, that can create some momentum the rest of the week.”
South Carolina broke a 4-4 tie in extras after loading the bases with two outs in the 11th. Freshman Riley Hogan worked a full-count walk to bring home Jacob Olson to break the tie and Alex Destino rocked a double off the right field wall to plate two more, pushing South Carolina onward in a do-or-die game Tuesday.
“I was fired up when I hit it,” Destino said. “Most exciting part was seeing my teammates in the dugout and how excited they were. That was the great part right there.”
Closer Tyler Johnson worked a season-high 4.1 innings to earn the win, striking out a season-high eight batters and setting down the final eight Commodores.
The Gamecocks will face Kentucky at 10:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, as their pursuit of a long SEC Tournament run to try and revive their postseason chances continues into the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
“Everybody is 0-0 once we start here,” Holbrook said. “If we can fight our way here and win a couple more, who knows? You can get hot at the right time and you can find yourself playing two or three weeks from now. Let’s just take it one game at a time from here and treat it like we’ve got a new season.”
South Carolina shot out to a 2-0 lead when Carlos Cortes blasted a hanging breaking ball for a two-run homer after Justin Row reached on an error.
The Gamecocks built the lead more on a Jonah Bride solo homer leading off the second inning.
Vanderbilt tied the game on one swing of the bat from Will Toffey, who ripped a two-out double into right center to clear the bases. All three Commodores reached base via the walk, as South Carolina starter Reed Scott struggled to find the strike zone.
The Gamecocks took the lead back an inning later when Row homered to left. It lived until the bottom of the seventh, when Vanderbilt’s Connor Kaiser hit his first homer of the season after reliever Josh Reagan set down the first nine batters he faced.
LT Tolbert reached to lead off the ninth when a Zack King pitch hit him squarely in the center of his back. Holbrook opted to pinch run Christian Flint for Tolbert and the speedy freshman stole second as Vanderbilt catcher Jason Delay double pumped the throw.
Row bunted Flint to third, setting up an intentional walk as Vanderbilt opted to pitch around Cortes. But the Gamecocks could not capitalize and take the lead, as Hogan hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
The freshman came through in his next chance, though. South Carolina loaded the bases with an Olson walk, Row single and Cortes intentional walk. Hogan battled into a full count before drawing a walk to break the tie and give South Carolina its first win in Hoover since 2012.
“We weren’t thinking about the past at Hoover,” Holbrook said. “Our backs were against the walls. It was a one-game season for us today we felt like. We have gone through a lot as a group. Had some tough breaks along the way. Had some injuries It was great to see our kids with their backs against the wall battle the way they battled.”
What’s next for South Carolina baseball
South Carolina will face Kentucky on Wednesday.