Could these Kentucky Wildcats become the Comeback Cats?
They looked the part Sunday, rallying to top No. 6 South Carolina 9-3.
Alex Meyer and Braden Kapteyn combined on a four-hitter as the Wildcats took two of three games at Cliff Hagan Stadium. That ended USC’s run of SEC series victories at 10, a streak that began more than a year ago.
USC (36-11, 17-7) held on to a tie for first in the SEC after Florida (33-12, 17-7) lost later in the day to Alabama.
The Wildcats (26-21, 9-15) still have work to do in order to qualify for the eight-team SEC tourney. With two three-game league series left, they are in 10th, a game behind Alabama and two back of eighth-place Tennessee.
“The best-record team in the conference right now, and they were coming in hot, too,” said UK’s Chris Bisson, whose two-run single sparked a four-run eighth inning. “For us to put a halt on that and to say we’re not afraid of anybody, it’s good stuff.”
Meyer, a 6-foot-9 sophomore righty who had been sidelined by mononucleosis since April 11, came up big.
“I tried to keep my emotions down as much as I could. It was a big day for me,” Meyer said. “It feels like a whole new season being able to get back out there. And to get out there and get a win like that against a very, very good team, that means a lot to us and, hopefully, shows what we’ve got.”
Meyer (5-2) worked seven innings, giving up three unearned runs — all in the first — on four hits. He walked three and struck out six.
Kapteyn closed with two innings of no-hit ball, fanning four, for his second save.
USC used nine pitchers, starting with Jay Brown (2-1).
Meyer retired the first two batters of the game.
An error by second baseman Bisson kept the inning alive, the Meyer beaned Nick Ebert. Adrian Morales and Adam Matthews had back-to-back RBI singles, and Morales scored on a passed ball.
Meyer walked two batters in the second inning, but was sharp the rest of the way.
“After two innings I was up to 48 pitches,” said Meyer, who would total 111, “and then I found a groove and got some rhythm going.”
“He gave us a lot of things,” Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. “One of them was competitiveness. Another was the continued message to the rest of the kids on our team that we can play with some poise when things don’t go your way. He gave us the message that you can make an adjustment in the game and you can slow the game down and you can pitch with confidence even after giving up a three-spot.
“Then, obviously, just a tremendous boost of adrenaline to get a second wind there somewhere about the fifth inning. I think he thought he might have been done after the sixth, and I convinced him that he had another inning in there. Then he convinced himself that he had another inning and went out and punched out the side, which will tell you a little bit about the power of the brain in our game.”
The Wildcats came back with solo homers by Gunner Glad in the first, Marcus Nidiffer in the second and Taylor Black in the fourth. Glad has hits in 11 straight games.
Chad Wright singled in the go-ahead run in the fourth.
Neiko Johnson, who in four trips to the plate singled, walked twice and was hit by a pitch, scored on a two-out fielding error in the seventh.
Bisson singled in two of the four eighth-inning runs. Cory Farris doubled in one, and one scored on an error.