Kentucky leaves USC black and blue

LEXINGTON, Ky. - For the first time since 2009, the brooms were brought out on South Carolina. Kentucky used a three-run sixth inning to propel itself to a 6-3 victory over the Gamecocks and sweep the three-game series on Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Florida was the last team to take all three games from the Gamecocks (15-4, 0-3) in a series in Gainesville in 2009.

“It was a tough weekend,” Tanner said. “We fought hard this weekend. We got 29 or 30 hits but we only averaged three runs per game. It’s difficult to beat a good team that way. Our effort was there, we battled hard, but we weren’t as good as Kentucky this weekend.”

Kentucky jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when catcher Luke Maile launched a pitch from USC starter Colby Holmes over the flag poles in left field. That would give Maile a total of six RBIs on the weekend.

South Carolina would slice the lead in half in the second inning when junior LB Dantlzer roped an RBI double inside the first base bag. Sophomore Erik Payne, making his eighth straight start at second base, scored from first after reaching base after being hit.

The lack of timely hitting manifested itself again in the fourth inning when South Carolina had the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fourth. Kentucky starter Corey Littrell got out of the jam getting Adam Matthews to roll over on the first pitch and into a 6-4-3 double play.

“In that situation, you want to be aggressive and get the run in,” Matthews said. “I got a fastball, and I just happened to hit it to the shortstop. That’s baseball. I wanted to get something up in the air there, that’s more ideal, but I didn’t do it. That’s frustrating for me because I want to get that run in, but you have to move on.”

After failing to come through with the big hit in the fourth, the Gamecocks got a pair of RBIs in the fifth. Junior Christian Walker grounded out to second, which brought home freshman Tanner English. Freshman Grayson Greiner then singled through the left side to score classmate Joey Pankake and give the Gamecocks a 3-2 lead.

Just as it had done all weekend, the Wildcats answered. The home side tied it up again in the bottom half of the inning when two-hole hitter Zac Zellers singled through the left side with two outs off of Holmes.

“We had a least a couple times in this series and that’s a shut down inning for us,” Tanner said. “They answered. A team going on defense, you look at it as a shut down inning for your pitcher and they were able to answer.”

The Wildcats would put up a three-run inning in the sixth that would prove to be well out of reach for the South Carolina sticks. Eight-hole hitter Michael Williams grounded a two-run single through the right side with the bases loaded. J.T. Riddle came in from third on a wild pitch off of reliever Tyler Webb.

That three-spot would prove to be all the scoring that the Wildcats would need. South Carolina had just as many hits in the game as the Wildcats, but it just couldn’t come through with the big RBI base knocks that the opposition could.

“We’re getting our share of hits, but not getting the runs,” Tanner said. “We’ve got to try to find something.”

The Gamecocks weren’t able to find anything in the eighth when they looked to tie the game with one swing of the bat. With two on and two down, pinch hitter Brison Celek came to the plate needing a home run to tie the game. The big fly is what Tanner was hoping for, but it just didn’t come to fruition.

“I’m thinking one pitch to get this thing tied up,” Tanner said. “It was going to be very difficult for Evan to hit one to the right side. There was a chance in the left field corner. You’re just taking a chance with one swing of the bat.”

South Carolina would strand 28 runners on base for the weekend, with 10 of them coming in the Sunday series finale. For the weekend, South Carolina had 39 hits but only scored nine runs. Kentucky had 26 hits and scored 14 runs.

Seven different relievers saw action for the Gamecocks on Sunday. They combined to allow three earned runs on seven hits over 4.1 innings. Nolan Belcher, Joel Seddon, and Webb were all charged with an earned run.

“For the most part, we made our pitches,” Webb said. “They just found the holes.”

For the weekend, the relievers combined to give up five earned runs in 7.2 innings on the mound. The Kentucky bullpen did not give up a run in 10.1 innings while only allowing seven hits. They struck out 12 USC hitters.

South Carolina will travel to Greenville on Tuesday afternoon to face Furman at Fluor Field. Either Adam Westmoreland or Jordan Montgomery will start on the mound.

Box score

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