Kentucky leads the SEC in batting average, runs and doubles and is second in the conference in home runs. But the Wildcats are still trying to solve Gamecocks sophomore Adam Hill.
The righty did not allow an earned run Friday in USC’s 3-1 win against Kentucky that sends USC into the semifinals for the first time since 2004.
Earlier this season, Hill held Kentucky to one run in five innings and allowed one hit. The Wildcats have hit .111 (4-for-36) against Hill in 11 innings this season.
“Out of all the guys we’ve faced this year, for whatever reason, he was one of the guys that our guys had trouble seeing the ball against,” Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said. “Against us in Columbia, I thought he threw a great game, and he did it again today. … Talking with the team today before the game, our guys don’t see the ball as well against him. I wish I could give you the answer to why, but there’s some real deception to that delivery.”
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Kentucky has been held to one run or less four times this season. Two of the four times came with Hill getting the start.
“I was a little erratic at first, but I was able to pile it in,” Hill said. “They are a great hitting team, so I was really trying to pitch them fastballs and try to throw them off speed, change-up from curveballs to sliders. That was really my approach.”
BIG OUTS LATE
After Hill got the Gamecocks off to a strong start, USC’s bullpen came up with big outs in the final three innings.
The Wildcats had two on with one out in the seventh when Josh Reagan got out of the inning with a fly out and a groundout.
In the eighth, Kentucky again had two on with one out, but Reagan got a fly out before being replaced by Reed Scott.
With two in scoring position, the senior got a groundout to end the threat.
“Those situations are what we live for, and that’s why we do what we do,” Reagan said.
Scott went on to get the first out of the ninth inning and did not allow a hit to the three batters he faced before closer Tyler Johnson entered the game and finished off the victory.
“It was like ‘we’ve done 100 times before’,” Scott said. “Josh pitched his butt off, I came in and got the out, then we handed it off to T-John to get the final outs. A lot of us were sore coming into today, so any out we could give was appreciated.”
South Carolina’s pitching staff is running out of arms as the Gamecocks have battled from the losers’ bracket to reach the semifinals.
Scott, Reagan and Johnson, USC’s top bullpen arms, might not be available Saturday against LSU.
Starters Wil Crowe and Hill are done for the tournament, leaving USC with Colby Lee, John Parke, Colie Bowers and Graham Lawson as players who have thrown meaningful innings this season that can be counted on to be available.
“We don’t have many bullets. We’ll have a few, though,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “We know the task at hand tomorrow. We’ve had to come through the losers’ bracket, and I’m sure they have a weekend rotation guy waiting for us champing at the bit. We’re down the line a little bit, but we’re still going to show up and play. It’s a crazy game. Who knows?”