Gamecocks drop second straight to undefeated Kentucky

No. 2 South Carolina lost for the second straight day to undefeated SEC foe Kentucky, which won its 20th straight to start the season.

South Carolina took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning but 16th-ranked Kentucky rallied for single runs in both the sixth and seventh innings and held on to defeat the Gamecocks 4-3 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

South Carolina is now 15-3 and 0-2 in the SEC with Kentucky 20-0 and 2-0 in league play. The series finale on Sunday is set for 1 p.m.

Trailing by a run entering the top of the sixth, the Gamecocks raced ahead of the Wildcats with a pair of runs off of Kentucky starter Jerad Grundy. Christian Walker led off with a double, his third hit of the game and scored on Grayson Greiner’s RBI double down the left field line. Greiner would eventually score on Erik Payne’s RBI sacrifice fly to center field that gave the Gamecocks a one-run lead.

Kentucky, however, answered in the bottom half to tie it as a two-out base hit off the bat of Michael Williams brought the game to 3-3. The Wildcats would regain the lead in the seventh inning as Austin Cousino led off with a base hit. With one out and runners on first and second base, A.J. Reed hit a fly ball to left field that the wind carried past left fielder Tanner English allowing Cousino to score and giving the Wildcats a 4-3 lead.

South Carolina looked to rally in both the eighth and ninth innings against the Kentucky relief corps but the Wildcats held them in check. With two outs in the eighth, LB Dantzler walked followed by a base hit by Erik Payne. UK reliever Tim Peterson came in and struck out pinch hitter Kyle Martin for the third out ending Carolina’s first threat.

The Gamecocks kept the pressure on in the ninth as Michael Roth came to the plate for his first plate appearance and he drilled a double into the gap in right-center to give Carolina a runner in scoring position. With pinch runner TJ Costen on base, Dante Rosenberg sacrificed Costen over giving the Gamecocks the potential tying run at third base and one out. UK reliever Trevor Gott struck out Evan Marzilli and then also struck out pinch hitter Brison Celek to give Kentucky the victory.

Kentucky reliever A.J. Reed earned the win and is 2-0 on the year. He hurled two scoreless innings and allowed just two hits while striking out two and walking one. Gott picked up his fourth save with a perfect inning of work in the ninth inning. South Carolina starter Matt Price suffered the loss and is 2-1 on the year. Price allowed four runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and three walks in 6.1 innings of work.

For the second consecutive day, the Gamecocks out-hit the Wildcats. South Carolina’s 10-hit day included a 3-for-4 day by Walker including two doubles. Payne was 2-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI and Joey Pankake went 2-for-2. Kentucky’s totaled eight this with Cousino 2-for-5 with two runs scored.

The Wildcats took the early lead with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Austin Cousino led off with a base hit down the left field line and Zac Zellers was hit by a pitch to give UK a pair of runners. Luke Maile drove in the first run with a RBI single to left field and Cameron Flynn added a sacrifice fly as Kentucky took a two-run advantage.

South Carolina responded with a run back in the second inning as they loaded the bases with Payne scoring the first run on a double play ball off the bat of Rosenberg. The double play haunted the Gamecocks in the early-going as Carolina grounded into three double plays in the first four innings.

South Carolina now owns a 6-3 record in one-run games this year out of 18 games for the 2012 season.

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