USC Gamecocks Baseball

Hopkins the hero in Hoover: Pinch-hit homer fuels USC to win over Kentucky

Chad Holbrook talks win over Kentucky, Hopkins heroics

South Carolina baseball coach speaks after the 3-1 SEC tournament over Kentucky.
Up Next
South Carolina baseball coach speaks after the 3-1 SEC tournament over Kentucky.

TJ Hopkins did not start for South Carolina on Friday against Kentucky, but he might have saved the Gamecocks’ season with one swing of the bat in the seventh inning.

The sophomore hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer off Wildcats reliever Logan Salow to lift USC to a 3-1 win in an elimination game. Carolina will face LSU in a semifinal game at 1 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network).

The Gamecocks (35-24) will play in the SEC Tournament for the first time since winning it in 2004.

“We’ve lost a lot of close one-run, two-run games. For one to fall our way, it feels great,” Hopkins said. “I was, honestly, just trying to go the other way with it, and I ended up hitting it pretty solid.”

South Carolina did nothing offensively against Kentucky starter Justin Lewis or Salow until Hopkins’ homer with one out in the seventh.

USC had one hit until that point, a single to right off the bat of second baseman Justin Row in the sixth inning. Carolina finished with just the two hits, but it was enough to earn, perhaps, the biggest win of the season.

“If you would have told me before the game we would get two hits, I thought we would only play seven innings,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “This was an incredible game and an incredible win for our team.”

Hopkins has been in-and-out of the lineup all year while dealing with a quad injury. He entered Friday’s game hitting .257 with four homers and 17 RBIs and had not hit a home run since April 2.

“You can win or lose the game sometimes with one swing of the bat, and we have lost a few to one swing of the bat this year,” Holbrook said. “It was good to see us get one back today. I am happy for TJ. He has pretty much been hurt all year long. He stepped up into a big spot when our season was on the line. I couldn’t be happier for our kids.”

Carolina was within striking distance late thanks to a pitching staff that shut down Kentucky’s potent offense.

The Gamecocks did not allow an earned run as Adam Hill, Josh Reagan, Reed Scott and Tyler Johnson made big pitch after big pitch when the Wildcats had chances to grab control.

Kentucky’s only run came in the first inning on an RBI groundout by Luke Becker. The run was unearned because earlier in the frame right-fielder Jacob Olson dropped a ball in the outfield after battling the sun.

Hill pitched six innings and struck out six while holding the Wildcats to three hits.

His most pivotal out came in the fifth inning when Kentucky had the bases loaded with two outs and Evan White up. But Hill struck out the dangerous first baseman swinging on a full count to hold Kentucky’s lead to one run.

“It could have gotten away from us there,” Holbrook said. “If they’re up 3-0 with Salow back there in the back of the bullpen, things weren’t going to look good for us. He made a big pitch when he needed to against one of the best hitters in the country.”

Reagan allowed three hits in 1 2/3 innings and left with two in scoring position in the eighth. Scott then got a groundout to end the frame and maintain USC’s two-run lead.

Scott recorded the first out in the ninth inning before first baseman Matt Williams committed an error, and closer Tyler Johnson entered the game.

The junior recorded a strikeout and groundout to clinch the victory.

“There’s no way to describe how big that was for our team. I think everybody on the team will tell you how it feels to lose a game like that,” Johnson said. “For one to go our way, TJ to come up with a big swing and Adam shut them down, it’s indescribable.”

Kentucky

ab

r

h

rbi

bb

k

Pompey rf

4

1

1

0

1

0

White 1b

4

0

0

0

0

1

Reks lf

3

0

1

0

0

0

Becker 3b

4

0

2

1

0

1

Marshall 3b

0

0

0

0

0

0

Mahan 2b

4

0

0

0

0

0

Cottam dh

3

0

1

0

0

2

Lewis pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

Heyer ph

0

0

0

0

0

0

Collett ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

Squires c

3

0

0

0

1

0

Carson cf

4

0

1

0

0

1

Heady ss

2

0

0

0

2

1

TOTALS

32

1

6

1

4

7

USC

ab

r

h

rbi

bb

k

Tolbert ss

2

0

0

0

1

0

Row 2b

4

0

1

0

0

0

Cortes lf

4

0

0

0

0

2

Hogan 1b

3

0

0

0

0

2

Williams 1b

1

0

0

0

0

1

Destino dh

2

0

0

0

1

0

Flint pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

Grosvenor ph

0

0

0

0

1

0

Bride 3b

3

0

0

0

0

1

Olson rf

3

1

0

0

0

1

Taylor c

2

0

0

0

0

2

Hopkins ph

1

1

1

3

0

0

Jones c

0

0

0

0

0

0

Blair cf

3

0

0

0

0

0

TOTALS

28

3

2

3

3

9

Kentucky

100

000

000

1

USC

000

000

30x

3

E — L. Becker 3; Williams; Olson. DP — UK 1. LOB — UK 9; S. Carolina 6. HR — Hopkins. HBP — Tolbert. SH — Z. Reks; Bride. SB — C. Heady.

Kentucky

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Lewis

5 1/3

1

0

0

1

6

Salow L, 2-5

1 2/3

1

3

2

1

1

Thompson

1

0

0

0

1

2

USC

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Hill

6

3

1

0

3

6

Reagan W, 6-2

1 2/3

3

0

0

1

0

Scott

2/3

0

0

0

0

0

Johnson S, 10

2/3

0

0

0

0

1

WP — J. Lewis; Z. Thompson 2; Hill. HBP — by J. Lewis (Tolbert). Umpires — HP: Darrell Arnold 1B: Tony Walsh 2B: Kevin Sweeney 3B: Jack Cox. T — 3:24 A — NA.

Hill faced 1 batter in the 7th.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC

  Comments