For weeks, South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook has said there is plenty of time remaining for the Gamecocks to turn this season around and earn key series wins.
Those weeks are running out. USC needs a win Sunday.
South Carolina enters the rubber match with Kentucky searching for its first marquee series win of the season.
The Gamecocks have had plenty of chances throughout the first two-and-a-half months of the season, but their SEC series wins to date are against the No. 12 team in the SEC – Tennessee – and the last place team in the conference – Alabama.
South Carolina has already faced the conference leaders – Mississippi State, as well as second place Auburn, fifth place Florida and ninth place Vanderbilt. You can argue that USC outplayed its opponent in all of those series. The Gamecocks won none of the series.
In nonconference action, USC had a chance to knock off Clemson, the No. 2 team in the RPI entering the weekend, but blew late leads in Game 2 and Game 3 to lose the series 2-1.
After this series with Kentucky, the Gamecocks have weekend matchups with LSU, Missouri and Georgia. Winning a series in Baton Rouge would be huge for South Carolina but will be tough to do. Defeating Missouri and Georgia, two teams with losing records in the SEC, will not do much for USC’s postseason résumé.
Kentucky entered this weekend No. 4 in the RPI, the highest team in the SEC.
After getting obliterated in the first Game, the Gamecocks bounced back nicely to earn a 5-1 win.
Not following that performance with another strong performance on Sunday does little for South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament résumé.
A win over Kentucky and the Gamecocks are back in the top 20 in the RPI and have a chance to get into the conversation to host a regional with another series win next week at LSU.
South Carolina would have momentum heading into the series with the Tigers and would be back in the SEC East race.
A loss to Kentucky and USC would also lose its fifth SEC series in a row with a trip to Baton Rouge, one of the toughest places to play, up next.
South Carolina would also still be searching for its first series win over a top 25 team this year and would be under .500 in the SEC with nine games remaining.
“We’ve been on the brink of doing some special things, and all of a sudden, every time we get close, we give up a big hit or a big homer,” Holbrook said Saturday.
USC needs to reverse that trend on Sunday and get its biggest win of the year.