by Knox Bardeenknox.email@example.comHOOVER, Ala. Vanderbilt scored two runs in the first inning Thursday and broke the game wide open with four runs in the ninth, as the nations second-ranked Vanderbilt topped the No. 1 team in the country, South Carolina, 7-2, in the second round of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
The Commodores and Gamecocks traded runs through the second and fourth innings with Vanderbilt holding a 3-2 lead until the ninth.
South Carolina had a number of chances to take the lead, its biggest was a two-out bases-loaded moment in the seventh inning that was ended by a sharply hit Scott Wingo ball to short.
Gamecock third baseman Adrian Morales said the game came down to pitching, and Vanderbilt had the best of it Thursday.
"They had the best pitcher, Sonny Gray, out there and he gave us some tough pitches, said Morales. We are just going to battle, try to come back tomorrow and win."
Gray threw 6 13 innings of five-hit baseball and allowed just two runs (one earned) while striking out seven batters. Corey Williams, Will Clinard and Navery Moore combined for 2 23 scoreless innings in relief to keep Vanderbilt ahead.
"We did very well, said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. Theyre a very difficult team to punch out and a very difficult team to slow down. There are some tough hitters in that line-up and I thought we did a nice job. This was not an easy night to pitch, its humid and wet; the only good thing was that the air was heavy and kept the ball down.
Vanderbilt, with the win, will get to rest its ballclub on Friday and wait to see who it will play on Saturday.
South Carolina will play on Friday, facing Georgia in the nightcap game on CSS. The loser Friday will be eliminated from the SEC Tournament while the winner advances to play Vanderbilt on Saturday.