USC Gamecocks Baseball

South Carolina explodes late past Kentucky for first SEC series win of year

On Senior Day, South Carolina baseball got key contributions from veterans and rookies alike, thumping Kentucky 11-3 Saturday to secure its first SEC series win of the year.

“Great to see the seniors on Senior Day all have an impact on that win and see them have a great day in front of their families,” coach Mark Kingston said.

Seniors accounted for four of the Gamecocks’ RBIs, and freshmen took care of six more — all 10 of those runs came with two outs, as USC (26-24, 7-19 SEC) hit 11-for-19 with no outs to give.

“You don’t just snap your fingers and it happens,” Kingston said of the performance with two outs. “Some days it’s there and some days it’s not. But you have to be consistent with your approach. Today we got rewarded for a good approach.”

Carolina also got a quality outing from staff ace Reid Morgan and three shutdown innings from freshman reliever Brett Kerry to secure consecutive wins for the first time in more than a month.

“It’s huge for our confidence, huge for our momentum going forward,” senior first baseman Chris Cullen said of the victory. “Things haven’t been going our way as of late, but these past two (games), we’ve come out with one goal in mind, and that’s to put it all together and win some ball games, and I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job.”

Trailing 3-2 after five innings with its only offense coming on a home run from senior center fielder TJ Hopkins, the Gamecocks exploded over its final three times at bat to put the contest away.

Freshman right fielder Brady Allen kicked off the rally in the sixth inning with a solo home run. Two batters later, freshman DH Wes Clarke launched a two-run shot for his first career round-tripper.

“We’re trying to finish this season out as strong as we can but we’re also trying to figure out what pieces will help us in the future, and Wes Clarke today looked like he could be an option, and Brady Allen’s been getting better as the season goes on,” Kingston said of his freshmen.

South Carolina padded its lead in the seventh with a leadoff single from sophomore infielder Noah Campbell, a walk for sophomore left fielder Andrew Eyster and RBI single from senior third baseman Jacob Olson.

Allen then lofted a high pop-up to shallow right field that should have been easily caught for the final out of the inning, but Kentucky’s second baseman appeared to either lose the ball in the sun or think someone else had called it, letting it fall right next to him and allowing two runs to score.

“Just a combination of good teammates, coaches helping me out with my swing and adjusting,” Allen said of his recent run of success.

The mistake, which was scored as a double, proved costly as Cullen and Clarke followed with back-to-back RBI hits to push the lead to 10-3. In the eighth, USC loaded the bases and Hopkins scored on a wild pitch to finish off the scoring.

Morgan picked up the win after throwing six innings, striking out eight and giving up five hits and three runs while walking none.

“Chris, TJ and Olson, I’ve become really close with them and they’ve helped me throughout the way, coming in from being a junior college kid,” Morgan said of the trio of seniors. “They brought me in under their wing, and it’s awesome to get the win for them.”

Next: South Carolina and Kentucky finish off their series at Founders Park at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.