NASHVILLE--- Senior right-hander Blake Cooper handcuffed Vanderbilt, allowing just two hits in 7.1 innings in leading South Carolina to a 3-2 win Friday night at Hawkins Field.
The Gamecocks improved to 24-6 overall and 8-2 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Commodores dropped to 25-7 and 5-5 in league action.
Cooper (6-0) allowed two runs on no hits in the first inning and then proceeded to throw six and a third innings of two-hit scoreless baseball before being relieved in the eighth. He didn't allow a hit until an infield single by Anthony Gomez in the fifth, while Andrew Giobbi's single to center in the sixth was the lone other hit Cooper conceded. He struck out four with a walk in 7.1 innings before being relieved by Michael Roth in the eighth.
"Blake Cooper is a very saavy pitcher," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "It wasn't anything we haven't seen out of him before, he knows how to pitch. He made it look easy tonight. We didn't hit the ball hard at all. He is a veteran guy that knows how to get deep into the game."
Vanderbilt starter Sonny Gray (4-4) was the tough-luck loser for the second straight week as he went the distance for the first time in his collegiate career. He allowed three runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and five walks. In SEC play he is now 1-3 with a 1.93 ERA.
"It's too bad because tonight was a wasted opportunity by a guy (Sonny) who pitched very well on a Friday night but the obvious didn't happen," said Corbin. "I can't complain about the pitching and defense tonight because it was pretty sharp."
VU took a 2-0 lead in the first, manufacturing the runs without the virtue of a hit. Brian Harris walked and Aaron Westlake was hit by a pitch before catcher Kyle Enders let a ball get past him, allowing both runners to move up. Andrew Giobbi and Jason Esposito both had RBI groundouts to the right side to bring the runners home.
The Gamecocks stormed right back in the second, scoring three runs with two outs in the frame. Jeffery Jones led off with a single to right and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Adam Matthews. Gray got Adrian Morales to ground out to third for the second out, before Enders came up with a bloop RBI single down the left field line. Bobby Haney singled up the middle to move Enders to third and then Scott Wingo struck out on a ball in the dirt and reached on the wild pitch. Enders came home on the play to tie the game at 2-2. Whit Merrifield walked to load the bases and Jackie Bradley Jr. walked to score Haney with what eventually became the game-winning run.
The Commodores had a last chance in the ninth when Joe Loftus singled with one out. Reliever Matt Price came on and struck pinch hitter Riley Reynolds out and then got Drew Fann to ground out to end the game. Price notched his third save of the year after recording the two outs.
Adam Matthews led USC with two hits on the night with five other Gamecocks recording a hit in the game.
The teams will meet in the second game of the three game set tomorrow at 2 p.m. It will be a pair of junior right-handers on the mound as Taylor Hill (3-2, 3.95 ERA) will take the mound for VU, while SC will counter with Sam Dyson (2-1, 4.79).