In a battle between two SEC teams at Cliff Hagan Stadium, Kentucky stunned No. 3 South Carolina, 4-3, on a walk-off home run by Kentucky catcher Luke Maile.
The Gamecocks led the entire game and held a 3-2 advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth. But USC closer Evan Beal hit Kentucky leadoff man Austin Cousino with a pitch to begin the frame, and the Wildcats’ dugout began to sense a rally and inched closer to the railing.
Two batters later, Maile crushed Beal’s delivery to the deepest part of the park in straight-away center to keep the Wildcats (19-0, 1-0 SEC) perfect.
“I put a good swing on it, and it worked out,” Maile said.
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Said USC coach Ray tanner: “That was a great college baseball game. And (Maile) came up big at the end. That was just a big, big blast.”
It was South Carolina (15-2, 0-1) that began the offense in Lexington, recording an unearned run in the third inning, a solo home run by second baseman Erik Payne in the fourth and an RBI single by center fielder Evan Marzilli in the sixth. The home run was the second of Payne’s career, and the hit by Marzilli marked the 17th time in 17 games this season the Gamecocks’ leadoff hitter reached base.
The Wildcats clawed back with two runs in the seventh inning, pulling within striking distance of USC.
“Honestly, you go up there and it’s exciting,” Maile said. “I thought I went up there with a plan. I knew that I was going to see a bunch of breaking balls — it’s his go-to pitch — and I just tried to put a good swing on it.”
While there was no shortage of offense (the two teams combined for 17 hits on the evening) it was the pitching from both sides that dictated the outcome as the teams combined to strand 20 base runners. USC starting pitcher Matt Roth allowed two earned runs and struck out six in 62/3 innings. Opposite Roth was Kentucky starter Taylor Rodgers, who allowed three runs and struck out four in 5 2/3 innings.
Both bullpens filled in well. The only relief pitcher to allow a run was Beal. When asked if he thought Beal, who is tied for the team lead with three saves, would recover from the loss, Tanner was not concerned.
“That’s part of pitching late in the game, he has to be able to handle these things,” Tanner said.
Maile’s home run was his seventh game-winning RBI of the season for Kentucky, tying Thomas McCarthy’s team record from the entire 2011 season.
The loss also marks the second year in a row USC has lost its SEC opener. In 2011, after losing its opening game to Georgia, the Gamecocks went on to win nine of 10 SEC series, finishing 22-8 in the conference en route to the SEC and national championships.
Kentucky will host South Carolina twice more: Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. in Cliff Hagan Stadium.
|Evan Marzilli cf||4||0||2||1||0||0||2||0||0|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||0||0||0||0||4||1||0||0|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||0||1||1||1||0||7||2||0|
|Kyle Martin dh||5||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||4|
|Grayson Greiner c||3||0||1||0||1||0||7||1||0|
|Erik Payne 2b||4||1||2||1||0||1||2||2||3|
|Joey Pankake ss||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|LB Dantzler 3b||2||1||1||0||1||0||1||2||0|
|Tanner English lf||3||0||1||0||0||0||2||0||2|
|Connor Bright ss/2b||4||1||1||0||0||2||2||3||1|
|Michael Roth p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Forrest Koumas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyler Webb p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Beal p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Austin Cousino cf||3||2||0||0||1||1||2||0||0|
|Zac Zellers lf||3||0||2||0||0||1||2||0||0|
|Luke Maile c||4||1||1||3||1||1||8||1||0|
|A.J. Reed 1b||4||0||2||1||0||0||7||0||1|
|Cameron Flynn rf||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||3|
|Thomas McCarthy 3b||4||0||1||0||0||2||0||3||2|
|J.T. Riddle 2b||4||0||1||0||0||1||4||3||1|
|Michael Williams dh||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||0|
|Paul McConkey ph||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Matt Reida ss||4||1||0||0||0||0||3||2||3|
|Taylor Rogers p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Walter Wijas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Sam Mahar p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tim Peterson p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Note: 1 out, 0 runners LOB when the game ended.
E - Payne(1); T. Rogers(2). DP - UK 1. LOB - S. Carolina 10; UK 10. 2B - Z. Zellers(6). HR - Payne(2); L. Maile(4). HBP - Dantzler; A. Cousino; Z. Zellers. SH - Marzilli(1); Matthews(4); English(4); Z. Zellers(3). CS - Marzilli(3).
|Evan Beal L,1-1||1.1||1||2||2||0||3||1||0||1||0||5||7||1||1||27|
|Tim Peterson W,2-0||0.2||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||2||3||0||1||11|
Win - T. Peterson (2-0). Loss - Beal (1-1). Save - None. WP - Beal(2); T. Rogers(4). HBP - by T. Rogers (Dantzler); by Roth (Z. Zellers); by Beal (A. Cousino). Pitches/strikes: Roth 111/66; Koumas 5/1; Webb 11/8; Beal 27/16; T. Rogers 102/62; W. Wijas 20/14; S. Mahar 10/8; T. Peterson 11/4.
Start: 7:05 pm
Koumas faced 1 batter in the 7th.