HOOVER, ALA. – A two-out walk to Riley Hogan with the bases loaded followed by a two-run double from Alex Destino helped lift South Carolina to a 7-4 win over Vanderbilt in 11 innings on Tuesday in an elimination game at the 2017 SEC Baseball Tournament. Junior right-hander Tyler Johnson pitched a season-high 4.1 scoreless innings of relief and struck out a season-high eight to earn the win. The Gamecocks are now 33-23 with Vanderbilt 33-22-1 on the year.
Johnson allowed just one hit and one walk in his longest outing of the season. He is now 1-2 on the year. Vanderbilt reliever Reed Hayes suffered the loss and is now 0-2 for the season. He allowed three runs on two hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 1.2 innings of work.
Tied at 4-4 entering the top of the 11th, the Gamecocks put a runner on base to open the frame with a leadoff walk to Jacob Olson. With two outs and Olson on first base, Carolina went with the hit and run and Justin Row belted a double to left field to give the Gamecocks a pair of runners in scoring position. With first base open, the Commodores elected to intentionally walk Carlos Cortes loading the bases for Hogan. The freshman first baseman worked the count full and drew a walk to score Olson and give the Gamecocks a one-run lead. Destino then gave the Gamecocks some insurance as he belted a double off the wall in right field to score Row and Cortes. With a three-run lead, Johnson pitched a perfect bottom half of the 11th to seal the win.
South Carolina out-hit Vanderbilt 7-5 with Justin Row leading the way with a 2-for-4 day at the plate and a career-high three runs scored. Both Cortes and Destino drove in two runs.
Cortes put the Gamecocks ahead 2-0 in the top of the first inning with a two-run homer. After Justin Row reached base with one out on third baseman Will Toffey’s throwing error, Cortes launched his team-leading 10th homer of the season over the right field wall. Jonah Bride increased that lead to 3-0 with a homer to left field to open the second inning, his fourth of the season.
Three walks and a double for Vanderbilt would tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the second inning. Reed Hays led off the frame with a walk and JJ Bleday and Connor Kaiser both drew two-out walks to load the bases. That set the stage for Will Toffey, who knocked the first pitch he saw for a double off the wall in right-center to clear the bases. Carolina answered in the top of the third to regain the lead in the 4th inning with Justin Row belting a solo homer to left-center, his second homer of the year.
South Carolina left-hander Josh Reagan was effective in relief in 3.1 innings of work. He retired nine batters in a row before a solo homer by Connor Kaiser with one out in the bottom of the seventh tied the game at 4-4.
Hogan worked his way back from two strikes to earn the walk against Hayes and give the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish.
Reed Scott, Reagan and Johnson limited the Commodores to just five hits and combined for 10 strikeouts in the win.
Carlos Cortes’ homer in the first inning was his team-leading 10th of the season. He has a five-game hitting streak and has reached base in seven straight games. All three homers this year in the first inning for Carolina have been by Cortes.
South Carolina tied a single-game high with three homers. The Gamecocks are the first team to hit three homers in a SEC Tournament game since Vanderbilt on May 23, 2015.
Carolina now has 53 homers on the year. That is a new single-season high in the BBCOR era (2011-present), besting the previous mark of 52 set in 2013.
Row tied a single-game high by a Gamecock player this year with his career-high three runs scored. It is the fifth time this season that a Gamecock has scored three runs in a game.
All nine Gamecock starters reached base at least once with six recording at least one hit.
Tuesday’s win was the first SEC Tournament victory for the Gamecocks since a 5-3 win vs. Auburn at the 2012 SEC Tournament. It is also South Carolina’s first extra inning win at the tournament since a 4-3 12-inning win vs. Florida in the 2007 SEC Tournament.
QUOTABLE FROM HEAD COACH CHAD HOLBROOK
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. They have had a lot thrown on top of them at a lot of different points this season. They knew coming in here that our backs were against the wall. They played their tails off. They handled adversity within the game, after getting up 3-0 thinking we had some breathing room. But Vanderbilt, like the team they are, always fights back. Our kids didn’t los their cool and their edge. Reed Scott got us off to a decent start and (Reagan) got us some big outs that, maybe eight or nine before the home run. Tyler Johnson was special. He was Tyler Johnson today. We had some big swings of the bats from our guys – Alex Destino, Carlos Cortes and Justin Row. It was a complete win. We played great defense. There were no errors on the board. We pitched our tails off and we battled at the plate. I couldn’t be more prouder of my team.”
On Riley Hogan’s at bat
“For a freshman to come up and have first and third with one out earlier to win the game maybe, in the ninth inning and he hits into a double play, he kept his wits about him. He showed some maturity and settled in there. He had a very confident at bat. He took two really good swings at it and fouled them back against a really good pitcher. He made the pitcher throw the ball in the strike zone after being in a 1-2 count. It was an at bat where you don’t see a lot of freshmen execute. It was really neat to see him do that. It obviously gave us some momentum and I think spurred Alex on to get a big knock.”
South Carolina advances to the double elimination portion of the tournament. The Gamecocks are back in action on Wednesday, May 24 vs. third seeded Kentucky with first pitch at 10:30 a.m. ET at the Hoover Met. The game will be televised live on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”