UPCOMING HOME GAMES AT HAWKINS FIELD Saturday, March 15 vs. South Carolina at 2 p.m. CT Sunday, March 16 vs. South Carolina at 1 p.m. CT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt's Ryan Flaherty opened Southeastern Conference play with a bang, hitting a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the ninth and then coming through with a walk-off single in the 13th to lead the Commodores to a 4-3 win over South Carolina in the SEC opener Friday night at Hawkins Field.
VU won its fifth straight to improve to 11-3 overall and 1-0 in conference play, while SC fell to 10-4 and 0-1 in league action.
Brian Harris walked with one out in the 13th and moved to second on a base hit to left by David Macias. Alex Feinberg then walked to load the bases, before Flaherty roped the game-winning single to right on a full-count to win the game. The junior from Portland, Maine tied his career-high with five hits on the night.
"It's something I have always wanted since I was a little kid, whether it was football, basketball or baseball, to have the ball when the game is on the line," said Flaherty. "I was fortunate I had a couple of opportunities tonight and I was successful. I have had other opportunities where I came up short, so it feels good when you come out on top."
A key moment in the game came in the top of the 13th when South Carolina had a runner thrown out at the plate by de la Osa in right. Andrew Crisp delivered a two-out single that James Darnell tried to score on from second, but de la Osa's on-line throw cut him down to keep the score even at 3-3.
Whit Merrifield recorded the Gamecocks first hit of the game in the fourth and it was a big one, a solo homer to left to tie the game at 1-1.
The Commodores took a 2-1 lead in the seventh on a RBI groundout by de la Osa. Brian Harris led off with an infield single and moved to second on a bunt single by David Macias. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Feinberg and Flaherty was intentionally walked to load the bases for de la Osa.
South Carolina tied the game in the eighth on a RBI grounder by Reese Havens. Andrew Crisp singled to left to lead off the inning and moved to third on a double down the leftfield line by Phil Disher.
USC took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth on a RBI double by Harley Lail. Kyle Enders doubled with one out off of VU starter Mike Minor. A strikeout later, Lail hit a ball that tailed away from a sliding Jordan Wormsley in left. It appeared he got the ball for the final out but it slipped through, allowing Enders to score.
Flaherty then delivered the game-tying solo homer in the ninth off of SC closer Curtis Johnson to tie the game.
"Ryan was on tonight," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "You could tell he was seeing the ball real well and he just took a good pitch on a swing and drove it."
Both starters did well, with VU's Minor striking out a career high 10 batters in 8.2 innings of work. He gave up six hits while giving up three runs in the no-decision.
The freshmen duo of Chase Reid and Russell Brewer closed out the game with four plus innings of scoreless relief. Reid came on in the ninth and allowed three hits in 2.2 innings of relief with three strikeouts and a walk.
Brewer (2-0) gave up just a hit in 1.2 innings with a strikeout and his first two walks of the year.
"I just think Mike (Minor) did everything he could possibly do to win a ballgame," said Corbin. "I thought we pitched very well, we brought in two freshman after that that gave us a chance to win. I was proud of the way we pitched."
Gamecock starter Mike Cisco gave up two runs on nine hits in six innings of work with four strikeouts and two walks.
Johnson gave up a run on four hits in five innings of relief for SC. Brandon Todd (0-1) took the loss, giving up one run on four hits in an inning of action.
Vanderbilt and South Carolina will play the second game of the three game set tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. Junior righthander Nick Christiani (1-0, 2.55 ERA) will take the hill for VU, while junior lefthander Will Attwood (0-0, 1.35 ERA) will start for USC.