HOOVER, Ala. – South Carolina made mistakes most of the morning in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt made just a couple. Those couple, however, saw the Commodores demise sealed.
Zach King walked South Carolina freshman Riley Hogan with two outs and the bases loaded in the 11th to provide the Gamecocks with the eventual game-winning run. Hogan and King went to a full count before the first baseman laid off a low pitch, allowing Jacob Olson to trot home from third base.
Two pitches later, Alex Destino knocked in two more runs as he clanged a King pitch off the right field wall. That was that. South Carolina had a 7-4 win in 11 innings.
Vanderbilt’s loss ends the 6-seed’s regular season. It now waits for the selection committee to announce NCAA Regional destinations on Selection Monday. The Commodores (33-22) are expected to be a 3-seed with a slight chance of earning a 2-seed.
Those chances would have been substantially helped with a win. South Carolina (33-23) hadn’t won an SEC series since Week 2 of league play. The Gamecocks, too, hadn’t been swept, either. They were among the preseason favorites for the league crown before injuries and underachievement struck.
Vanderbilt had to dig itself out of holes twice just to send the game to extra innings. Will Toffey hit a bases-clearing, three-run double in the second inning after South Carolina had scored two in the first and another in the second to open a 3-0 lead. The Gamecocks went back on top a half-inning later when Justin Row hit a solo home run to left field. Vanderbilt tied it in the seventh when Connor Kaiser went yard himself.
All that led to late-inning dramatics. South Carolina tried to give away the game in the ninth and 10th. The Gamecocks had runners at the corners with one out in the ninth and didn’t score. They had another runner reach in the 10th, but on consecutive pitches had him thrown out trying to steal second and the hitter striking out.
Neither time Vanderbilt could take advantage. The Commodores went quietly in order in the bottom of the 11th to end the game.
South Carolina, the 11-seed, advances to play 3-seed Kentucky on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET).
Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina box score
What’s next for Vanderbilt?
The Commodores are going to the NCAA Tournament barring a major upset on Selection Monday. Vanderbilt is expected to be a 3-seed, potentially a 2-seed, when the brackets are announced Monday, May 29 (time and channel to be announced). Tuesday’s loss, however, ended its regular season.