Baseball Finishes Off Sweep of South Carolina

LEXINGTON ? Kentucky?s offense exploded for 12 runs on Sunday afternoon to overpower a helpless South Carolina team and complete a three-game sweep of the seventh-ranked Gamecocks with a 12-9 victory at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

The sweep moved 21st-ranked UK into a first-place tie in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division. Kentucky (30-10, 11-7) joined the South Carolina (30-11, 11-7) atop the division with four series remaning. The Gamecocks entered the weekend in sole possession of first place.

It is the first time Kentucky has swept a ranked opponent since taking three from No. 5 LSU at home in 1991.

The Wildcats also won their 30th game of the season, marking the first 30-win season in six years and the 11th in school history. By reaching the milestone in its 40th game, UK matched the 1991 team for the quickest team to 30 wins.

Sunday?s offensive outburst pushed Kentucky?s weekend run total to 37 runs in three games. That number comes against a USC team that entered the weekend ranked 14th in the nation in earned-run average. The Wildcats pounded out a astonishing 15 extra-base hits in the weekend, including five by second baseman John Shelby.

The run total, reached by scoring 10 on Friday, 15 on Saturday and 12 on Sunday, is the most for Kentucky in an SEC series since hanging 37 on the Gamecocks in a 1995 series victory.

Early in Sunday?s game, it seemed as thought USC would avoid the sweep. South Carolina jumped out 6-0 lead through the top half of the fourth inning.

However, the UK bats woke up and cranked out all 12 runs over the next three frames to make it 12-7 after six.

After Kentucky managed just one hit in the first three innings, Ryan Strieby got the offense going with a solo home run to lead off the fourth. Michael Bertram followed with a walk and Shelby made it 6-3 with a two-run shot to right-center field. It was the second home run for both in the series.

The Wildcats plated four of their five fifth-inning runs with two outs. Strieby drew a one-out walk and came around on a Bertram double. An out later, Billy Grace walked and Ryan Wilkes laced an RBI single to cut the deficit to one. Shaun Lehmann then blasted a three-run homer to left to give UK the lead for good, 8-6. Bertram?s double extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

The big fifth inning allowed starter Greg Dombrowski to earn the win. He worked the first five innings, allowing six runs on nine hits. The win moved him to 7-1 this season, which is tied for the most wins by a UK pitcher since 1997. He is now 9-1 in his career.

Kyle Brown took the loss in relief for USC after allowing five runs in a single inning. Starter Harris Honeycutt did not factor in the decision, going four innings and getting tagged for three runs on four hits. He walked three and fanned five.

South Carolina pushed one run across in the sixth before Kentucky lit up the scoreboard for four more. Strieby and Wilkes had RBI singles sandwiched around an RBI double by Shelby. Another runner scored via a Gamecock error.

Shelby, Wilkes, Lehmann and Strieby each finished with two hits. Shelby?s both went for extra bases and he wrapped up the weekend by hitting .462 and slugging 1.154.

Andrew Crisp hit a two-run homer off reliever Troy Ragle, who was pitching for the second straight day, in the eighth for the final margin. Andrew Albers came in for Kentucky and pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his first save of the season.