Following Friday night’s ninth-inning theatrics, the No. 3 South Carolina Gamecocks and the Kentucky Wildcats got together again Saturday afternoon for game two of a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
In a back-and-forth showdown between two of the SEC’s top teams, the Wildcats once again inched past the Gamecocks for a 4-3 win, earning Kentucky a series victory and extending the nation’s lone remaining perfect record to 20-0.
“I don’t have any measures of complaint. Obviously, I want to win. I’m disappointed, but you have to give Kentucky a lot of credit, they’re a very good club,” South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said following his team’s second loss in a row.
Having led for one pitch the night before (the last pitch of the game), Kentucky wasted no time jumping on South Carolina starter Matt Price on Saturday, scoring two runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.
With a 2-1 score in the top of the sixth, Gamecocks’ designated hitter Grayson Greiner smacked an RBI double to tie the game, and was later sacrificed home to give the lead to South Carolina.
The next half-inning, however, Kentucky tied the game again at 3-3 before reclaiming the lead in the seventh on an RBI double by Kentucky’s A.J. Reed. South Carolina’s Michael Roth, led the ninth inning off with a double, but Kentucky closer Trevor Gott recorded three big outs, including two strikeouts, to clinch victory for the Wildcats.
“We’ve been in a lot of these close ones,” said Tanner, whose Gamecocks are 6-3 in one-run ballgames. “Kentucky deserves a tremendous amount of credit. They played extremely well, they pitched extremely well when they needed to, but it was anybody’s game today.”
Price, the Gamecocks’ closer in 2011, made his first career SEC start Saturday. He recovered nicely after a rocky first inning, pitching four innings of two-hit, shutout baseball before being touched up again in the sixth.
But the downfall for the Gamecocks was not their pitching, but rather their timely hitting. South Carolina recorded 10 hits on the afternoon, but was 3-14 at the plate with runners on base.
“It’s not frustrating,” Price said. “It’s just, I know we’ve got a good team, and our hitters are getting there and they’re going to come up big soon.”
“I don’t think we are struggling that much, just untimely hits, ground balls when you need a line drive or a fly ball, and we had three double plays in the first four innings,” South Carolina first baseman Christian Walker said. “We just have to play better.”
The loss marks the first time South Carolina has lost a series to an opponent this season, and the second time South Carolina has lost a series in the SEC since 2010. South Carolina’s record has fallen to 15-3 as it searches for its first conference win Sunday in its series finale with Kentucky.
“We’ve just got to take it one game at a time now,” Price said. “We can’t look at it forwards or backwards, we just have to look at it one game at a time (and) get the one (Sunday).”