The Vanderbilt Commodores bounced back from a tough Friday loss to defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks 8-1 on Saturday afternoon.
Riding a six-run second inning and eight strong innings from Patrick Raby and Jackson Gillis, the outcome of the game never looked to be in question. Pat DeMarco, Connor Kaiser, and Alonzo Jones had strong performances, combining for five hits, two walks, and five runs.
Head Coach Tim Corbin discussed how DeMarco has matured as a hitter.
“He’s growing more because he’s recognizing the off-speed pitch,” Corbin said. “I think that’s the difference if you’ve seen him during the course of the year. Early [in the year he] got off to a good start but probably wasn’t any pitch plan towards him. What I saw today, is he’s identifying the breaking ball and staying off of it and that put him in good position to hit.”
Strong hitting with two strikes by the Commodores keyed the hitting outburst in the second against South Carolina’s starting pitcher Adam Hill.
Corbin was pleased with the hitting performance against Hill, especially considering Hill’s dominant performance against Vanderbilt a year ago.
“We just tried to push the ball down. He’s had a lot of success in this league throwing the ball at about chest level,” Corbin said. “The remembrance of that game wasn’t a lot of fun. It was on a Sunday, and I just remember that damn hot dog commercial. Every time there was a strikeout they gave out a bunch of hot dogs and yeah that stayed on my mind.”
Leading off the second inning, DeMarco fouled off three pitches and took four balls after falling behind 0-2, drawing the walk. Ty Duvall followed up with a liner that skid off the second baseman’s glove into center field.
With runners on first and third, Kaiser tallied a RBI on a line drive into right-center on a 1-2 count. Jones then took three straight balls after falling behind 1-2 to load the bases with a walk.
Back-to-back singles into left field by Harrison Ray and Julian Infante, both after falling behind 0-2, pushed across three more runs.
Finally, after a wild pitch that squirted in front of the catcher advanced runners to second and third, despite Austin Martin and Ethan Paul striking out, Philip Clarke managed to bring both runners home with a line drive landing into center field.
In the six-run second inning, Vanderbilt batters recorded two walks and three hits when facing two strikes, taking balls with great plate discipline and doing damage on balls out over the plate for hard-hit line drives.
Raby was unable to pitch a single clean inning, reaching 98 pitches after five innings of work. However, despite bending, he did not break, allowing the Gamecocks to score just once when Carlos Cortes hit a home run to right field in the first inning.
Raby talked about the adjustments he needed to make in that specific matchup against Cortes.
“He squared it up but it wasn’t hit too great. He just back-spun it pretty well off me,” said Raby. “That’s just kind of his swing plane down in the zone so if I can elevate the ball a little bit against him I think it would have been a little bit better.”
Cortes later hammered another pitch into right-center field, but Jones made a stellar leaping grab at the wall to prevent the extra-base hit.
Jones notched his second home run of the season in the bottom of the fifth. On a full count, the speedy outfielder turned on a belt-high fastball to rocket a two-run homer into right field, extending Vanderbilt’s lead to seven.
Raby did his part to make sure the lead held up, getting out of multiple jams. In the top of the second, with runners on first and second, the righty recorded a strikeout on a breaking ball. Later in the top of the fourth, he ended a threat of runners on second and third by inducing a flyout to right.
Despite struggling a bit with execution, sailing some pitches high, Raby’s outing was a classic winning effort, recording outs in all sorts of ways to get the job done.
Jackson Gillis came out of the bullpen to throw three strong innings, looking impressive with his ability to locate the ball. His hardest inning came in the eight, when the Gamecocks put runners on first and second, but Gillis responded with two strikeouts.
One came on a perfectly placed pitch on the bottom-inside corner for a called strike three, and the second on a swinging strikeout on a full count to the cheers of the crowd.
Vanderbilt failed to reach base after Jones’ home run in the fifth, struggling against the bullpen. Chandler Day pitched the ninth to finish off the game.
The Commodores look to take the rubber match against the Gamecocks on Sunday at 1pm.