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USC splits a wild pair against Kentucky

South Carolina's Nick Ebert connects on a hit in USC's 20-19 game 1 victory.
South Carolina's Nick Ebert connects on a hit in USC's 20-19 game 1 victory.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A 15-foot bunt single threatened to give South Carolina a sweep of Saturday’s doubleheader against Kentucky.

But a two-run homer by freshman Andy Burns with one out in the bottom of the ninth gave the Wildcats a 5-4 victory — this after the Gamecocks survived a Kentucky comeback to win the opener 20-19.

“We had 11 homers in the first game, so I thought there might be one more left,” Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. “We didn’t like how they scored in the ninth, but we were just chasing a run.”

South Carolina (17-7, 3-5 SEC) broke a 3-3 tie on Scott Wingo’s bunt single, scoring Kyle Enders from third.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Kentucky’s Chris Wade was hit by a pitch by closer Alex Farotto, who saved the opener.

Burns lifted a fly to right, and USC’s Jackie Bradley Jr. kept drifting back.

“I definitely wasn’t sure,” Burns said. “It carried, and I saw him get to the wall. It kept going over then.”

Added Henderson: “It was a great win. I was disappointed how the first game ended, but I liked I liked the way we fought. We competed all day.”

The series concludes today at 1 p.m. Freshman Alex Meyer (1-1) will pitch for the Wildcats (16-8, 4-4) against senior Blake Cooper (3-2).

In the opener, Kentucky got the tying run to the plate at the end of a 12-run rally covering its final three at-bats.

After Gunner Glad’s two-out, two-run homer brought the Wildcats within one, USC needed an over-the-shoulder catch by shortstop Bobby Haney in short center field to end the opener four hours and 13 minutes after it began.

The Gamecocks led 9-0 after two innings and 13-2 after four. Their biggest lead was 18-5 after 5 ½ innings, and USC jumped to a 20-7 advantage in the seventh.

Kentucky scored six runs in the seventh and four in the eighth to edge closer.

Highlights included the 11 home runs, 43 hits, 17 runs allowed by the starting pitchers and two errors in the marathon.

Individual standouts included:

 Kentucky’s Glad, who had three homers, five RBIs and five runs; and Chris Bisson, who had four hits and four RBIs. Spencer Korus entered the game as a pinch runner and wound up with two hits and four RBIs, including a three-run shot in the seventh inning as the Wildcats began their comeback.

 The Gamecocks’ Nick Ebert, whose only hit was a grand slam; Andrew Crisp, Justin Dalles, Whit Merrifield and Bradley each had four hits. Parker Bangs and Scott Wingo each added three RBIs.

Kentucky starter James Paxton’s ERA went from 3.30 to 5.62 for his two innings of work.

Gamecocks starter Sam Dyson couldn’t handle the 20-7 lead and left with two outs in the seventh when he hit a batter after getting two strikes. The USC bullpen gave up six runs after that, including Glad’s second homer and a three-run shot by Chris McClendon.

Kentucky’s victory ended a four-game losing streak.

After the slugfest, the teams settled into a pitching duel between Kentucky’s Chris Rusin and USC’s Nolan Belcher.

Kentucky tied the score at 3 in the eighth before Wingo’s successful bunt left USC three outs from a sweep. But Burns gave the Wildcats their third walkoff victory of the season. All three home runs came on the first pitch.

The nightcap was delayed 17 minutes when plate umpire Kenneth Couch was hit in the face when the bat of Kentucky’s McClendon slipped out of his hands in the eighth. Couch was feeling woozy and went to University Hospital. His status for the series finale is unknown.

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