NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It didnt seem to matter too much Friday whether Vanderbilt pitched to South Carolina slugger Christian Walker.
The junior hit two home runs in a game for the first time in his career, but his presence in the lineup would have been enough as No. 11 South Carolina won the series opener against Vanderbilt, 8-3, at Hawkins Field.
Walker hit a home run to left in both the first and seventh innings.
I think I did it in high school maybe one time, but its usually like I got one (homer) a game, and thats about it, said Walker, who leads the Gamecocks with five homers. Im seeing the ball well, and everythings working out.
With two outs in the first inning, Walker crushed Kevin Ziomeks pitch into the top row of the left-field bleachers for a solo home run.
With first base open in the third, South Carolinas offense did its most damage when the Commodores intentionally walked Walker to load the bases.
That could be a sign of bigger things to come.
Brison Celek stepped to the plate and hit a two-run double off the left-field wall, and the next batter, Erik Payne, hit a sacrifice fly to drive home Walker.
I grabbed the unicorn by the horns. It worked out all right, said Celek with a smile as reporters laughed at his unusual phrasing. Getting a good knock like that always helps the team out.
In all, the Gamecocks (19-7, 2-5 SEC) scored five runs in the third inning, sparked by a pair of bunt hits to lead off the frame, and took a 6-0 lead. The Commodores (10-16, 2-5) would never get close. Celeks presence behind Walker in the lineup proved to be no laughing matter.
It was good to see, USC coach Ray Tanner said. You have to think of it a little bit now when youre trying to get around Walker cause Celek will show you in (batting practice) that he can hit them a long way.
The third-inning outburst was the first time South Carolinas lineup had batted around since the fourth inning of last months 13-1 win over VMI the third game of the season.
Walker added a two-run homer in the seventh, a towering shot over Hawkins Fields 35-foot-tall left-field wall, that pushed USCs lead to 8-2.
Gamecocks starter Michael Roth (3-0) did not give up a hit in his first three innings but allowed three runs. Matt Price entered and picked up his first save of the season, getting Roth out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh inning to preserve USCs 8-3 lead.
A hit here, a single there, a walk, and all of a sudden its 8-7, Tanner said of his decision to bring in Price. Were not in a position to leave a guy like (Price) over there. Its incredible to get out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation.
Ive seen him do it once before, but thats hard to do.
Ziomek (2-4) took the loss for Vanderbilt.
With a win Saturday in Nashville, South Carolina will clinch its first conference series of the season. The two-time defending national champs lost their first two league series, at Kentucky and at home against Florida, to start conference play.
Right-hander Evan Beal (1-2) will get the start Saturday for the Gamecocks, who will face Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede (0-3).