LEXINGTON, Ky. - There is no clock in baseball, but time seems to be running out on Kentucky.
Despite scoring runs in each of the first five innings Friday night, the Wildcats dropped a 13-9 decision to South Carolina in the opener of a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
That leaves UK two games behind Alabama and Tennessee for the eighth and final qualifying spot for the SEC tournament. After this weekend series against the Gamecocks, Kentucky has only a three-game home set against LSU and a three-game trip to Georgia.
UK (24-21, 7-15 SEC) did most of the damage - to USC and to itself - Friday.
While the offense came through with nine runs and 14 hits, the defense faltered by committing five errors. That added up to seven unearned runs for the first-place Gamecocks (36-9, 17-5).
What UK didn't give away, USC took.
Christian Walker led the Gamecocks' 14-hit attack, matching his career high of four hits and driving in four runs. Three of his hits were doubles, tying a school record. Jackie Bradley Jr. added three hits.
Lance Ray paced UK with three hits. Marcus Nidiffer and Lance Ray had two hits apiece, including a solo homer by each. Chris Bisson, Gunner Glad and Keenan Wiley also had two-hit games.
Glad extended a pair of streaks - nine games hitting and 25 games reaching base.
UK scored in each of the first five innings yet led only 7-4.
Carolina then took control with a five-run sixth.
"We tried to play all our frames and that (sixth inning) was a big inning for us," said head coach Ray Tanner. "(Blake) Cooper pitched pretty good. We had a couple of errors that hurt him a little bit. It was a windy day, sort of a hard field to play defense one, but it's the same for both teams. (Taylor Rogers) pitched well for (Kentucky). It was one of those games that you have to just play until the end."
Bradley's bases-loaded double scored two. Walker and Adrian Morales doubled in a run each, with another scoring on Parker Bangs' groundout.
UK's best chance to get back in the game came in the eighth. Black led off with a homer, which Bisson and Chad Wright followed with singles. But Glad, the potential tying run, grounded into a double play.
Ray's single scored a run, but Braden Kapteyn struck out.
Ray and Kapteyn each knocked in a first-inning run, and Nidiffer's homer came in the second.
Andy Burns drove in a third-inning run with a sacrifice fly. Only a sensational back-to-the-infield catch by center fielder Bradley prevented Burns' drive from being a two-run hit.
Bisson singled in a run in the fourth, and Wiley and Nidiffer did likewise in the fifth.
Carolina had four two-run innings - the second, third, eighth and ninth, with UK booting the ball four times. The only error-free inning when Carolina scored, the eighth, was fueled by a pair of hit batsmen.
Carolina right-hander Blake Cooper (9-0) gave up seven runs, three earned, on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.
UK left-hander Taylor Rogers (4-7) yielded eight runs, three earned, on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings.
The series continues tonight at 7.