No. 28 South Carolina Claims Series with Win in Rubber Match

March 29, 2009

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky plated a run in the fifth inning to take a 1-0 lead, but No. 28 South Carolina posted runs in the top of the sixth and seventh off the UK bullpen, securing a 4-2 win over the Wildcats in the rubber match of the Southeastern Conference series, on a Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (16-9, 4-5 SEC) held a short-lived 1-0 lead entering the top of the sixth, but UK starter Alex Meyer issued a walk to the lead-off man and after a wild pitch, DeAngelo Mack drove in the go-ahead run with a single up the middle. USC added to its lead off relievers Tyler Henry and Clint Tilford in the seventh, plating three runs to take a 4-1 lead. Henry exited the game with the score intact, but Tilford allowed RBI hits to the first two hitters he faced, surrendering the lead to the Gamecocks.

Meyer was nearly unhittable through the first five frames, heading into the sixth with UK nursing a 1-0 lead. Meyer, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound freshman, walked six, striking out four and allowing only three hits and one run. USC senior right-hander Blake Cooper tossed a gem for the Gamecocks, going the distance, giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out five and getting 15 ground ball outs. Henry (0-2) suffered the loss, allowing two hits and two runs, striking out one. Tilford allowed three hits and a run in his two innings of work. After Tilford put two runners on base in the top of the ninth inning, Kentucky turned to Logan Darnell and Braden Kapteyn, who each struck out a hitter in the ninth.

Kentucky managed to load the bases with no out in the bottom of the ninth, setting the stage for a potential comeback victory. It would not happen however, as Chris Bisson struck out for the first out, Chris Wade lofted a sacrifice fly to score a run for a second out and Chris McClendon grounded out to end the game.

UK returns to action Tuesday, hosting Marshall at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Fans can catch the action live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM.

UK got multi hit games from Bisson, who extended his hitting streak to a career and team-high 15 games, and senior Spencer Korus, who recorded one of the two RBI for the Wildcats. The other RBI was recorded by Wade, UK’s sophomore shortstop.

Kentucky had a defensive let down that led to Meyer getting into trouble in the first inning, but used a great defensive play by left fielder Chad Wright to get out of the jam. Meyer started the inning off with a walk to Jackie Bradley Jr., and then struck out Whit Merrifield for the first out. With Nick Ebert up, Kentucky catcher Marcus Nidiffer threw down to first base in hopes to pickoff Bradley Jr., but the ball was over the head of first baseman Gunner Glad and went down the right-field line allowing Bradley Jr. to advance to third. Meyer eventually walked Ebert, putting runners on the corners and one out. Mack then sent a short pop fly to left field that was caught by Wright, who threw home to catch Bradley Jr. trying to score for his second outfield assist of the season and the third out of the inning.

Meyer, a 2008 Aflac All-American in Greensburg, Ind., got out of another jam in the second inning when he walked the bases loaded with no outs and Scott Wingo at the plate. The Kentucky pitcher settled down, striking out Wingo and then getting his team-high third pickoff of the year at second base for the second out of the inning. The inning ended when Bobby Haney hit a slow roller back to Meyer who gathered the ball and threw a beam to first for the third out.

Kentucky grabbed the first run of the game in the fifth inning when Korus picked up his 12th RBI on the season. Kapteyn started the inning with a double into left center field, his sixth double of the season. After a bunt by Keenan Wiley to move Kapteyn to third, Korus sent a rope over the center fielder’s head and all the way to the wall to easily bring home Kapteyn for the 1-0 lead. The inning ended when Wright bunted Korus over to third and then Bisson grounded out to third base for the third out.

South Carolina (18-7, 4-5 SEC) answered the Wildcats run in the fifth inning with one of its own in the sixth, chasing Meyer from the game. The inning started with Meyer’s sixth walk of the game, then throwing a wild pitch to put the runner in scoring position at second base. The next batter was Mack who sent a sharply hit ground ball up the middle, easily scoring Ebert and tying the game at one. Henry came into the came to relieve Meyer and made quick work of the Gamecocks, getting a strikeout and two pop outs to end the inning with the game still tied at one.

USC broke the game open in the seventh inning getting three runs, all but assuring a series victory. The inning started on a single through the right side of the infield by Haney. Henry then got a ground ball up the middle that, if not had been touched by Henry, would have been a perfect double play ball. Instead it was a single by Bradley Jr. and kept the inning alive. Kentucky then made a pitching change bringing in Clint Tilford who gave up a double down the right field line by Merrifield for the first run of the inning and then a two-run single by Ebert past the diving McClendon at third to give the Gamecocks a three run lead going to the bottom of the seventh.

Kentucky loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning but could only get one run, falling short to the Gamecocks 4-2.