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Analysis: Թϱ baseball sweeps No. 3 Vanderbilt, wins 1st SEC series

The Թϱ baseball team earned its first SEC series victory of the 2024 season with a win over No. 3 Vanderbilt on March 24. 2024. The Gamecocks beat the Commondores 8-4, 8-3 and 10-2 over the three games.

The Թϱ baseball team swept the No. 3 Vanderbilt Commodores, earning its first SEC series win of the 2024 season on Sunday.

The win also marks the first series win over a ranked opponent for the program since April 20-22, 2023, when the Gamecocks defeated No. 3 Florida.

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In game one, which was postponed to Saturday due to inclement weather on Friday, the Gamecocks picked up an 8-4 victory over the Commodores, ending Vanderbilt's 14-game winning streak.

Թϱ's offense came alive in the third inning, and it scored twice in the frame. Junior outfielder Kennedy Jones hit a single that scored a run, and sophomore outfielder Ethan Petry walked.

The Gamecocks took advantage of mistakes made by the Commodores in the seventh. Fifth-year infielder Parker Noland reached on an error by the Vanderbilt defense and would eventually score. Petry also reached on an error when Vanderbilt's outfielder dropped a fly ball, which drove in 3 runs.

Թϱ continued its winning ways and took game two to sweep the Saturday doubleheader with an 8-3 victory. The Gamecocks got into an early 1-0 deficit in the second inning but answered quickly when Petry hit a solo home run to tie the game.

Vanderbilt extended its lead to 3-1 over the third and fourth innings, but the bats heated up for the Gamecocks in the fifth. The team rallied to score 4 runs and take a 5-3 lead. The Gamecocks held on to this lead with shut-down pitching to clinch both the game and series victory

"Well, it'd be harder to think that you can play better than we did today," head coach Mark Kingston said. "Against the No. 3 team in the country on a long winning streak. Our guys were incredible, all day. Pitching, defense, offense — that's as good as you can play baseball in my opinion, and (I'm) really proud of the guys for that effort."

In the third game of the series, Թϱ completed the sweep and defeated Vanderbilt 10-2. The Gamecocks' offense started hot, as it added 6 runs in the first inning. Petry hit a two-RBI single, and fifth-year outfielder Dylan Brewer reached on an error to score 2 runs. Senior infielder Gavin Casas hit a two-out home run, which sent home 3 runs.

"Great series for us. No. 3 team in the country comes in, and we play as well as we did," Kingston said. "(I'm) just very excited for our guys," Kingston said. 

Jones and Brewer both recorded solo home runs in the second and seventh innings, respectively. 

"The coaches have — they've always been doing a really good job with the approach," Jones said. "Before sometimes it just didn't go our way, but now it's starting to finally click, and everything's coming together for us."

The Gamecocks' pitching staff held Vanderbilt to just four hits and tallied 12 strikeouts to one walk in the final game of the series.

Jones’ stellar outing propels Թϱ

Junior pitcher Eli Jones shut down a red-hot Vanderbilt offense in game one. He didn't allow a hit through his first six innings of work and retired 18 consecutive batters to open the game.

“His team loves playing behind him because he’s such a great team guy,” Kingston said.

Jones did run into trouble in the seventh, however, and he exited the game after giving up a single and a walk. In 6.1 innings, he finished with two earned runs, four strikeouts and just one walk on an efficient 77 pitches.

“He really set the tone for us today,” Kingston said. “Really set the tone, and I think everything kind of fell in line behind his effort.”

In his six starts so far this season, Jones is 2-0 with a 2.35 earned-run-average. He's recorded 23 strikeouts to seven walks. Jones has solidified himself as a starting pitcher, as he's already made the same number of starts that he recorded all of last season (six).

Petry shines in game two

Petry highlighted the Gamecock’s game two victory going 3-3 with 2 home runs and three RBIs

Petry started his night with a home run in his first at-bat to lead off the second inning to tie the game. Gamecock hitters were struck out in order in the first inning before Petry got the first hit and run of the night.

Petry stayed hot at the plate, drawing a walk in the fourth. Then, in the sixth inning, he notched his second home run of the game to give the Gamecocks a 6-3 lead. He ended the night with an RBI single in the seventh inning to extend the lead to 8-3.

“When (junior catcher Cole Messina) and Ethan Petry are taking really good at-bats, then everything falls in line behind it,” Kingston said “And we look like a really good offense. When they struggle a little bit, then not so much.”

Pitzer impresses in starting debut

Freshman pitcher Tyler Pitzer made his first career start on Sunday against the Commodores. The Pennsylvania native dazzled, as he only gave up 2 runs in 6.1 innings. Pitzer held Vanderbilt to three hits and recorded a 9-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

"Pitzer was outstanding," Kingston said. "His poise was good. His stuff was good. He was competitive — looked like a veteran out there."

Prior to making his first start, Pitzer went 3-0 in six relief appearances and recorded 20 strikeouts to six walks.

"It meant the world to me seeing him (Kingston) put trust in a freshman like me to go in there and finish the job on Vandy," Pitzer said.

What’s next?

Թϱ’s next matchup will be on Tuesday night against Presbyterian at Founders Park. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.


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