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Gamecocks swept by Vandy

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASEBALL

South Carolina was in desperate need of a win entering the second of two seven-inning games Sunday, trying to avoid being swept for the second straight weekend in conference play.

What they didn’t need was for their opponent to be one of the best teams not only in the SEC but also in the country in Vanderbilt.

The Gamecocks dropped both games of Sunday’s doubleheader, including a 6-2 loss in game two, and are now on a seven-game SEC losing streak, the longest since joining the league in 1992 and have been swept in three three-game series for the first time since 2008.

Mark Kingston || Photo by Katie Dugan
Mark Kingston || Photo by Katie Dugan

“It’s easy to get down on yourself, have a bad attitude and have bad body language in our situation,” Andrew Eyster said. “At the end of the day, that’s not going to help anything, it’s not going to benefit anyone. Right now, all we can do is go out, play our hardest, have fun and everything else will take care of itself.”

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Cam Tringali dug the Gamecocks (24-23, 5-19 SEC) into an early hole, giving up four runs before he was pulled with two outs in the second inning.

It was the shortest of his five career starts, giving up four runs, all earned, on four hits and walking two. After a leadoff single, Tringali (2-2, 4.00 ERA) gave up a two-run bomb to DeMarco before walking the bases loaded before Ethan Paul singled home two more runs.

“He just didn’t have much command today. His stuff was OK, I saw some 93s up there; but his command was not what he normally has,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “Because of that, when he did throw it over the plate, they had great counts to hit in and they didn’t get bad outs. It just wasn’t a typical performance. I thought Brett (Kerry) did a real nice job behind him but he dug us a hole there.”

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Those would prove to be the difference as the Gamecocks couldn’t muster enough runs to keep up with Vanderbilt’s offense.

After Luke Berryhill reached on a throwing error to break up a perfect game in the fifth, Jacob Olson broke up a no-hitter with a single to left a batter later before Andrew Eyster ended the shutout with a RBI single to center.

Wes Clarke notched his first-career RBI the same inning, lifting a soft single over the second baseman's head to cut the lead to just two runs.

Those would be the only runs they’d push across in game two as they finished plating just five runs on 11 hits in 14 innings Sunday.

“Our guys did the best they could. They scraped, we didn’t strikeout a great amount, but their pitchers are good,” Kingston said. “They’re an Omaha-type team and right now we are not. Our guys did the absolute best they could. They fought; they played hard.”

They’d put pressure on the Commodores the last two innings, including putting two on in the seventh, but the best chance came in the sixth with back-to-back two-out singles before Chris Cullen launched what looked like, at-worst, a game-tying double.

It wasn’t with JJ Bleday leaping up at the wall in right to rob Cullen of extra bases and end the threat.

“The ball goes a little bit more it’s out of the park and we take a 5-4 lead going to the top of the last inning,” Kingston said. “That seems how it’s been going for us lately.”

Bleday homered in the following inning, the first of back-to-back solo shots off Brett Kerry, to give Vanderbilt some insurance.

Kerry finished after that throwing 4.2 scoreless innings before two bad pitches, striking out two to just one walk.

“I didn’t have much control over so that kind of hurt me going into the seventh because when I needed a big strikeout that’s usually my go-to,” he said. “So that hurt me, but I feel like I made good pitches and they hit it. I think the first home run I threw it right on the corner and he just got his barrel extended to it and then a slider didn’t break as much as I wanted it to and he got one.”

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The Gamecock pitching staff struggled this weekend against what Kingston called the best lineup he’s seen this season, giving up 37 runs on 31 hits with two potential first round picks in Austin Martin and JJ Bleday.

The pitching staff finished this weekend with a 13.70 ERA and a 2.3 WHIP.

“It’s the best lineup we faced this year without question. They came in hitting .320,” Kingston said. “They’ve got a first round pick hitting at the top, they have one of the best hitters in the country in my opinion leading off. It’s just a great team, offensively especially. It’s the best I’ve seen this far. You have to tip your cap.”

Up next: With exams finishing up early this week, the Gamecocks' next midweek game is Wednesday as they host Furman at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network Plus.