Vols drop nailbiter to #10 South Carolina, 2-1

COLUMBIA, S.C. (UT Release) – A walk-off single by LB Dantzler gave No. 10 South Carolina a 2-1 victory over Tennessee in another thriller on Saturday night at Carolina Stadium.The loss snaps UT’s seven-game winning streak and evens the weekend series with the rubber match set for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“That was a tough loss,” Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. “We’re going to have to rebound and come back to win the series tomorrow. I thought the game was there for the taking for us, but we weren’t able to take advantage and get quality at-bats late in the game. We weren’t perfect on the mound, but we kept them at bay and gave our team a chance to win.

“That was a hard fought game. We just have to find a way to come through when we need to. That’s what championship teams do. We are putting ourselves in a position where we can reach the top and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I hope they can see that too, but no one is going to give it to us. We have to do it ourselves.”

The Vols (20-11, 6-5 SEC) danced around fire all night, stranding 15 Gamecock baserunners over the first eight innings. It finally got to them in the bottom of the ninth as a leadoff single, sacrifice bunt and wild pitch put a runner at third with one out before Dantzler laced a pitch to deep center for the walk-off win.

The Gamecocks (22-9, 4-7) took advantage of a season-high nine walks and three hit batters to put 16 runners on base over the first eight innings despite having just three hits. The Vols left all but one of them stranded on base though as SC scored just one unearned run over that span until breaking through again in the ninth.

“I wasn’t happy with how we set the table for them but we were able to make pitches when we had to. I’m proud of our guys for picking themselves up when they put themselves in jams and we are going to have to do that again tomorrow.”

Tennessee managed just a season-low three hits on the night as South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery struck out seven and allowed just a first-inning run over eight strong frames. He would not factor into the decision, however, as the win went to Gamecock reliever Tyler Webb (3-0) after he pitched a scoreless ninth.

Sophomore Carter Watson (3-1) suffered the loss for the Big Orange, yielding the game-winning run in the ninth. Freshman Robbie Kidd posted a stellar effort out of the bullpen, working out of a bases-loaded, no outs jam and striking out five in three solid innings. UT starter T.J. Thornton allowed just one unearned run on three hits in four frames of work.

“I like how Robbie pitched,” Serrano said. “Robbie was more in character, threw his offspeed pitches for strikes and that’s what he has to do to be successful.”

The Big Orange wasted little time getting the scoring started as Will Maddox led off the game with a triple to the corner in left and came home to score just seconds later on an RBI groundout by Zach Luther. That would be it for a while though as Montgomery retired the next 12 batters he faced and allowed just two more baserunners through the eighth inning.

South Carolina stranded two in each of the first three innings before finally tying the game in the fourth on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Adam Matthews. The run was unearned due to an error earlier in the inning.

The Gamecocks looked like they were going to take the lead in the next inning, loading the bases with nobody out. Kidd was unfazed, however, using an infield pop-up, strikeout and a groundout to short to escape unscathed.

Neither team managed much offensively over the next three stanzas until Dantzler gave the Gamecocks the walk-off win in the ninth.

The Vols will take their second hack at winning the series in the rubber match at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Sophomore Nick Williams (2-2, 2.40) will take to the hill for UT with South Carolina set to go with righthander Colby Holmes (3-0, 2.84).

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