No. 16 Baseball Sweeps 2-time NCAA Champs, No. 2 S. Carolina
March 18, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Junior Luke Maile launched a two-run homer in the first inning and sophomore Trevor Gott recorded his second save in as many days, to lead No. 16 Kentucky to a 6-3 win over No. 2 South Carolina - the two-time defending NCAA Champions - sweeping the Gamecocks for the first time since 2006, in front of a season-high 2,571 on a perfect Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (21-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) won its school-record 21st consecutive game with the series sweep over the high-powered Gamecocks, who entered the series leading the league in ERA, owning the last two NCAA and SEC Championships and ranking No. 2 or No. 3 in the four major polls. With the win, UK swept South Carolina for the first time since UK's 2006 SEC Championship season, with UK's SEC-opening sweep the first since besting Alabama in the 2008 league-lidlifting series.
The Wildcats lead the nation in wins as the only undefeated team remaining in college baseball. UK's 21-game winning streak is a new school-record, as the 2007 and 2008 team's opened 19-0. UK owns the longest current winning streak in college baseball.
UK's series sweep of the Gamecocks is just the fourth in the history of the series, dating back to 1959. UK has swept the series vs. South Carolina in 1996, 1999, 2006 and now 2012. With a series win in 2010, UK has now won two of the last three series meetings with the Gamecocks.
Kentucky's 21-game winning streak is now the third-longest streak in the storied history of SEC baseball. LSU's NCAA Championship run in 2010 stands as the league record for the longest winning streak, a span of 23 consecutive win. UK sits behind South Carolina's 22-game winning streak in 2000, with UK's 21-game streak passing Vanderbilt's 2007 20-game streak and South Carolina's 2000 20-game streak.
UK's dominance during the weekend came courtesy of Maile and a shutdown bullpen outing. The UK bullpen hurled 10.2 shutout innings with only one hit allowed during the three games, picking up all three wins including two saves from Gott.
Kentucky got the first-inning homer from Maile - part of a two-hit outing - his fifth home run of the season. Freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino went 2-for-5 at the top of the order, while freshman A.J. Reed added a 2-for-4 game after picking up the win on the mound and driving in the game-winning runs in the Saturday win. Senior catcher Michael Williams delivered the game-winning hit, with a two-RBI single to break open a 3-3 game in the bottom of the sixth inning. UK also got hits from Matt Reida, J.T. Riddle, Thomas McCarthy and Zac Zellers.
UK starter Corey Littrell worked 5.1 innings, allowing nine hits and three runs, walking two and striking out three. Walter Wijas (2-0) picked up the win in relief of Littrell, hurling 2.1 shutout innings, allowing only two hits. Wijas also tossed two shutout innings in relief in the series-opening win on Friday. The Wildcats also turned to freshman Sam Mahar for a crucial out in the eighth inning with Gott emerging in the ninth inning from the bullpen for the second consecutive day. Gott was again dominating, striking out two to seal the win and his fifth save of the season.
South Carolina (15-4, 0-3 SEC) starter Colby Holmes worked 4.2 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, walking two and striking out three. The Gamecocks used Hunter Privette, Nolan Belcher, Joel Seddon, Tyler Webb, Patrick Sullivan, Logan Munson and Drake Thomason in relief of Holmes, with Belcher suffering his first loss of the year with the decisive run allowed in 0.1 innings.
During the Wildcats' five-game week, Reed paced UK at the plate and on the mound with a .526 average (10-for-19) with two doubles, one homer and five RBI, in addition to two wins on the mound and a 1.12 ERA. Reed extended his hitting streak to a club-best 12 games with his two knocks.
The finale with the Gamecocks concludes a homestand for UK, with the Wildcats returning the action on Wednesday at Cincinnati in the Queen City, with first pitch at Marge Schott Stadium slated for 4 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.
After a scoreless top half of the first inning, Kentucky got going quick. Zellers walked for the Wildcats with one out in the top of the first before Maile drilled a two-run home run to leftfield to put Kentucky up 2-0 after one.
Littrell struck out the lead-off batter in the top of the second but South Carolina mounted a rally. Erik Payne reached on a hit by pitch for the Gamecocks. LB Dantzler followed Payne with a double down the rightfield line to score Payne with one out. After allowing his first run of the day, Littrell struck out T.J. Costen. Adam Matthews delivered a two-out, infield single as. Riddle prevented the ball from getting through the infield and forcing Dantzler to stay on third. Littrell got out of the inning by picking Matthews off at first and preserving Kentucky's 2-1 lead.
South Carolina threatened in the top of the fourth. Payne got the Gamecocks going with a single through the left side of the infield with one out. Dantzler singled through the right to put runners on first and second with one out before Costen walked to load the bases with one out. Littrell worked out of the bases-loaded jam with a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
South Carolina struck back in the top of the fifth as Tanner English led off with an infield single before advancing to second on an Evan Marzilli sacrifice bunt. Joey Pankake reached base on an infield hit to the right side of the field, leaving runners on first and third with one out in the top of the fifth. English scored on a Walker ground out to second as Pankake advanced to second. Grayson Greiner came up with a two-out single to leftfield for the Gamecocks, scoring Pankake from second and giving the Gamecocks their first lead of the day at 3-2.
Kentucky responded to South Carolina's two-run top of the fifth with a two-out rally sparked by Cousino's double down the first base line. Zellers knocked Cousino in with a base hit to leftfield. With Maile coming to the plate, South Carolina brought in the submarine righty Privette to replace Holmes on the mound. Zellers stole second but was left stranded as Kentucky left the fifth tied 3-3.
Belcher came in to pitch for South Carolina in the bottom of the sixth and Kentucky got going with a Reed line-drive single up the middle. With one out, Sedden replaced Belcher on the mound before walking McCarthy. South Carolina chose to replace Sedden with runners on first and second by bringing Webb in to the game. Riddle singled through the left side to load the bases for Kentucky with one out. Williams came up big for the Wildcats as he drove in two runs with a single through the right side, scoring Reed and McCarthy. Williams advanced to second on the throw home to leave runners on second and third with one out. Riddle scored on a wild pitch to give Kentucky a 6-3 lead through six.
Mahar started the ninth for the Wildcats but after Pankake reached first on a fielding error, Gott took the mound for the save opportunity. Gott closed the game for the Wildcats, forcing a fly out to left and two strike outs in the ninth.
GAME NOTES: Freshman A.J. Reed extended his hitting streak to a team-best 12 games ... Austin Cousino recorded his club-high ninth double of the year ... Trevor Gott saved his career-high fifth game of the season ... Luke Maile hit his fifth homer ... Zac Zellers stole his third base ... UK's win was its school-record 21st consecutive, eclipsing the previous record of 19 games in 2007 and 2008 ... UK's 21-game winning streak is the longest in program history and the third-longest in SEC history, behind a 23-game stretch from the 2010 LSU Tigers and a 22-game streak by 2000 South Carolina's club ... UK leads the NCAA in wins ... The series sweep over USC was just the fourth in the history of the program, joining the 1996, 1999 and 2006 team's sweep of the Gamecocks ... UK opened up 3-0 on opening SEC weekend for the first time since a school-record 44-win season in 2008.