Walker delivers series victory

Gamecocks slugger’s 13th-inning homer helps USC stop weekend skid

Special to the StateApril 1, 2012 

South Carolina's Christian Walker celebrates as he heads home to score the Gamecocks second run during their game against Clemson at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in Charleston, SC, Friday, March 2, 2012.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

— NASHVILLE, Tenn. South Carolina slugger Christian Walker seemed to feel some of the weight falling off his shoulders.

It took the junior first baseman one swing to end a day’s worth — and maybe a half-season’s worth — of frustration.

“Thank God, I was getting tired and this … 13 innings, whatever it was, it’s a lot of baseball,” said Walker, whose towering home run in the top of the 13th lifted the No. 11 Gamecocks past Vanderbilt for a 6-4 win on Sunday at Hawkins Field and gave USC its first SEC series win of the season.

Walker’s homer was hit hard off Vanderbilt reliever Philip Pfeifer (0-1) but still barely cleared Vanderbilt’s 35-foot-high fence in left field.

“Yeah, but it was one of those you kind of just knew. I’ve hit that ball a couple times,” Walker said. “I felt it off the bat and kind of knew I had enough, but it was pretty suspenseful watching it try to get over that white line.”

The Gamecocks (20-8, 3-6 SEC) led 4-0 early but gave up three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to allow the Commodores to tie the game.

Jordan Montgomery (2-0) picked up the win for South Carolina in two innings of relief, following a gutsy, six-inning relief outing from Matt Price.

“Montgomery comes in and pitches pretty well,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said with a laugh. “That’s impressive for a guy that thought that Vanderbilt was in North Carolina.

“We hit the Tennessee border the other day, and he wanted to know where we were going. He thought Vandy was located in North Carolina. Sometimes, it’s better not to know, isn’t it?”

USC had a season-high five errors in an exciting but sloppy game. Vanderbilt (11-17, 3-6) finished with three errors. The Commodores had the winning run on third base in the 11th and 12th innings, but Price and Montgomery stranded the runners.

Gamecocks starter Colby Holmes carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up consecutive singles to start the frame. Holmes left with a 4-1 lead but was charged with three runs.

LB Dantzler hit a solo home run in the fourth inning off Vanderbilt start Will Clinard and added a two-run single in the fifth to give South Carolina the early 4-0 lead.

But after the Commodores battled back, the Gamecocks, aside from their errors, kept their cool as South Carolina capped the season’s first half with a win.

“We came out big. We came out and fought every inning today. It might not show on the scoreboard, five errors, but our goals stayed tough and Walker, of course, stayed big for us,” Price said.

“We thought we didn’t have the best first half (of the season). We won some close games, and we lost some close ones. We’ll just go out there and play the way we’ve been playing.”

Added Tanner: “Neither team really wanted to give in. We both played poorly, at times, defensively, but we were gutting it out, they were gutting it out. It’s a great road win in a rubber game for us.”

“It’s only the third (SEC series), I guess, but there’s some relief in winning it.”

USCVanderbilt
 abrhbi abrhbi
Marzilli cf 6210Kemp lf 5022
Pankake ss 7120Gomez ss 4000
Walker 1b 5232Yastrzemski rf 5110
Celek dh 5021Gregor 1b 6000
Costen pr/dh 2010Navin c 3110
Dantzler 3b 6123Conde 3b 5111
Matthews rf 4000Harrell cf 6010
Payne 2b 3010Reynolds 2b 4001
Roth ph 0000Norwood ph 1000
Vergason 2b 0000Lupo dh 2110
English lf 6000Castellano dh 2000
Rosenberg c 3000Harvey ph 1000
Greiner ph/c 2000     
Totals496126Totals44474

USC10012000000026
Vanderbilt00003100000004

EDP—S. Carolina 1; VU 1. LOB—S. Carolina 13; VU 10. 2B—Pankake 2 (5); Kemp 2 (6). HR—Walker (6); Dantzler (5). HBP—Navin. SH—Roth (1); Vergason (3); Conde (3). SF—Reynolds (1). SB—Payne (2); Kemp (6); Yastrzemski (4). CS—Costen (2).

USCIPHRERBBSO
Holmes 4 2/333311
Webb 1/310000
Price 611047
Montgomery W,2-0 220013

VanderbiltIPHRERBBSO
Clinard 4 2/364434
Pecoraro 220012
Miller 1/300000
VerHagen 4 2/310023
Pfeifer L,0-1 1 1/332210

WP—Price (2); VerHagen (4). HBP—by Price (Navin). PB—Navin (6). Umpires—HP: Morris Hodges 1B: Randolph Harvey 3B: Scott Kennedy. T—3:48. A—2,851.

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