They’ll measure the winning distance of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday by furlongs. On Friday night, Kentucky baseball needed a much smaller unit of measure to reach the winner’s circle. The Wildcats played plenty of small ball to scoot past USC 7-3 in game one of their SEC series. It’s Carolina’s third loss in their last four conference games, dropping the Gamecocks to 36-9 overall and 14-7 in the SEC. Meanwhile, Kentucky won for just the third time in their last ten SEC outings to improve to 31-13 on the season and 12-10 in the league.
Will Sanders got the start for USC and struggled right out of the blocks against the Wildcats. The right-hander gave up a base hit and a walk in the first and then plated UK’s initial run of the night on a wild pitch. In the second, his luck did not improve.
With two outs and nobody aboard, Sanders got, what appeared to be a routine fly ball into center field off the bat of James McCoy. However, Dylan Brewer appeared to lose sight of the ball, and as it bounced behind him, McCoy rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
USC cut the deficit in half on a solo home run from Gavin Casas in the top of the fourth, before Kentucky countered with a pair of runs in the fifth.
After the Gamecocks climbed to within 4-3 on an RBI single by Michael Braswell and a SAC fly from Cole Messina in the top of the 7th, Kentucky put the game away in the bottom of the frame.
Following a lead-off single, the Wildcats put the visitors on their heels. A SAC bunt attempt by senior outfielder Jackson Gray turned into a first-and-second situation as Messina committed a throwing error attempting to retire Gray at first. Jase Felker then placed a perfect bunt single just off the pitching mound to load the bases with no one out. A bases-loaded walk and a two-run single gave Kentucky all the insurance it would need to put an end to a four-game Wildcat losing streak.
Sanders (4-3) took the loss for the Gamecocks, allowing four runs on six hits in five innings of work. Travis Smith improved to 4-1 on the season for Kentucky, pitching six innings and allowing just one run on four hits with five strikeouts. Game two of the series is set for tomorrow at 2pm in Lexington, KY.