Columbia, S.C. (VUAD)– Vanderbilt rallied late to clinch the series on Friday night at No. 12 South Carolina 5-3 in 13 innings at Founders Park.
The Commodores (21-11, 6-5) entered the ninth inning trailing 3-2 but Will Toffey worked a leadoff walk to put the tying run aboard. A Ro Coleman sacrifice bunt put Toffey at second but a pop up left the Dores with only one out to work with. Reed Hayes was called on to pinch hit and delivered with a clutch RBI-single through the left side of the infield to score Toffey from second.
Matt Ruppenthal worked a scoreless ninth in his third inning of relief to send the Dores and Gamecocks (20-10, 6-5) into extra innings. The two teams traded zeroes back-and-forth until the 13th inning when Julian Infante came to the plate with one on and one down. The sophomore changed the game in one swing, smashing a two-run homer into the Commodores’ bullpen in left-center to give the Dores their first lead of the night.
Back out for his seventh inning of relief, Ruppenthal closed it down with his fourth straight perfect inning to run his total to 14 consecutive retired to end the game. The right-hander earned the win by matching his career-best with seven innings. He scattered only two hits and struck out three with no walks in his first win of the season.
The Gamecocks took an early lead in the third inning, taking advantage of Vanderbilt’s defense. Alonzo Jones made an error to start the inning and compounded the problem with the next batter. A ground ball brought Jones in towards the infield grass where he fielded the ball, but he failed to tag the runner going from first to second and his throw was late to first to allow the first two Gamecocks to reach in the inning. Kyle Wright walked the next batter to load the bases before a Jonah Bride single scored the first run of the game. A double play brought the next run home but a two-out, RBI-single from Carlos Cortes pushed the Vandy deficit to three runs before Wright could get out of the inning.
The Dores battled back immediately in the fourth. Stephen Scott doubled to right-center and Infante cashed in with a RBI-single to center. Infante later scored on a wild pitch to close the gap to a single run but VU left two runners in scoring position to end the inning. Wright and Carolina starter Clarke Schmidt settled in from there and held both offenses in check until Hayes’ heroics in the ninth.
Infante led the way for the Commodores, driving in three runs on two hits. Scott added a pair of hits and two runs scored. Wright was solid over six innings of a no decision. The junior allowed three unearned runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
Reed Scott took the loss for the Gamecocks after giving up the home run to Infante in the 13th inning. Schmidt gave up two runs on five hits with 11 strikeouts over seven innings.
The series victory at South Carolina is the first for the Commodores since taking both games the two teams played before being rained out in 2013. First pitch for the series finale is set for 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2 tomorrow.