For the first time this season, USC baseball has been swept in a weekend series. On Sunday, Kentucky rapped out twelve hits and took advantage of three Gamecock errors to post a 9-2 win, outscoring Carolina 30-12 to claim all three of their SEC games in Lexington. The Gamecocks fall to 36-11 overall and 14-9 in the SEC. Meanwhile, Kentucky improves to 33-13 on the season and 14-10 in the league. USC exits the weekend two and a half games back of Vanderbilt for the lead in the SEC East.
As troublesome as South Carolina’s pitching has been recently, an old nemesis reared its head on Sunday and set the stage for a sweep. In the bottom of the first, Wildcat leadoff hitter Jackson Gray was hit by a pitch from Gamecock starter Matthew Becker. Gray would advance to second on a balk by Becker, who appeared to stumble on his delivery to the second-place hitter, Jase Felker. After a one-out walk put runners at first and second, Becker committed the first of two straight errors on the same play. His pickoff attempt to second sailed into center field, and when Dylan Brewer misplayed the ball in the outfield, the Wildcats had a 1-0 lead as Gray was able to score from second. A base hit drove in the second unearned run of the inning, giving UK a 2-0 advantage after one.
It’s the sixth straight SEC game in which the Gamecocks fell behind early. The two errors also upped USC’s season total to 47, which is the third-most in the league. The Gamecocks would commit their third and final error of the game in what turned out to be the decisive third inning.
But first, Brewer would make up for his first-inning miscue by launching a two-out, two-run home run over the fence in right center field to tie the game at two apiece. However, when the Gamecocks desperately needed a shutdown inning, they couldn’t get one. Kentucky sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the frame, scoring three runs to reclaim the lead 5-2. It took Becker nearly fifty pitches to get out of the inning, in which he walked three batters and hit a fourth.
The Wildcats added insurance runs in the seventh and eighth inning to finish off the 9-2 win and their first sweep of the Gamecocks since March of 2012. USC may have suffered an apparent injury to its pitching staff during the game as well. Reliever Eli Jerzembeck worked just over an inning before being lifted from the game in the sixth. He was being attended to by USC’s athletic trainer after a lead-off walk.
USC is back at home on Tuesday at 4pm to face North Florida before traveling to Arkansas for an SEC series starting Friday.