Cats Drop Rubber Match At South Carolina

Phil Disher broke open a tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning with an RBI single – part of a four-run inning – giving the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks a 6-2 win over the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats, securing the series on a chilly Sunday afternoon at Sarge Frye Field.

Kentucky (22-4, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) dropped the rubber match after winning the series opener 15-3 and falling on Saturday 13-7.

Senior righty Greg Dombrowski pitched well through 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and striking out eight. James Paxton, Andrew Albers, Brock Baber and Tyler Henry combined to finish off the game. Baber took the loss, allowing the decisive runs in his inning of work.

UK got hits from Collin Cowgill, Chris McClendon, Tyler Howe, Chris Wade, and Bryan Rose, with left fielder Keenan Wiley notching the lone multi-hit game for UK, a 2-for-4 performance.

Wiley led off with a double into the left-centerfield gap, the third consecutive innings UK’s leadoff hitter reached base. Cowgill, who hit a monstrous shot onto the softball stadium on Saturday, laid down a perfect bunt for a single, putting Wiley on third. Brian Spear followed, ripping a hard line drive up the middle that second baseman Andrew Crisp dove near the second base bag to field. Crisp flipped Havens the ball from the dirt with his glove and Havens bare-handed the feed, firing a strike to get Spear on the double play. The speedy Wiley came around to score on the twin-killing, making it 1-0 UK early.

South Carolina (18-7, 6-3 SEC) answered with a run in the bottom of the third. After Dombrowski got Disher looking, left fielder DeAngelo Mack connected on a hanging breaking ball, sending his third home run of the season over the right-centerfield fence.

After going scoreless through its next two innings, South Carolina took a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, 2-1. Whit Merrifield led off with a single through the left side of the infield, and after James Darnell struck out for the second time in the game, Dombrowski intentionally walked the third-best prospect in college baseball, Justin Smoak. The move paid off, as the senior got the fifth hitter, Kyle Enders, to strikeout. With runners on second and third, Andrew Crisp ripped a hard grounder that was fielded by McClendon diving toward the line at third, but the junior did not have a play at first, loading the bases. With Phil Disher at the plate, Dombrowski got the slugger to rip a grounder at Wade deep in the hold between third base and second. Wade made a diving play to keep it in the infield, but his throw was not strong enough to get the laboring Disher at first, scoring Merrifield from third. With the bases loaded, Adam Crisp ripped a grounder up the middle, snagged by a diving Wilkes who flipped the ball to Wade, covering second base, to get UK out of the inning.

The Wildcats immediately answered in its half of the seventh, getting a run on three hits to tie the game 2-2. After getting the first two outs, Tyler Howe got hit by a pitch. Wade followed, delivering an infield single to the third baseman. With the game-tying run on second and two out, pinch hitter Bryan Rose knocked an RBI single through the right side, scoring Howe from second with the game-tying run.

In the bottom of the eighth, South Carolina took a 6-2 lead, plating four runs on four hits. For the second consecutive inning, a UK reliever issued a leadoff walk, this coming to Smoak. Enders laid down a bunt, fielding by UK catcher Brian Suerdick, who made an ill-advised throw to second to attempt to get the lead runner. With runners on first and second and two strikes, Andrew Crisp tried to lay down a bunt, sending it foul for a strikeout. Disher followed, ripping an RBI single into left field, scoring Smoak. After Adam Crisp struck out, Harley Lail delivered an RBI single through the left side. Reese Havens and Merrifield each followed with RBI singles of their own, with Merrifield laying down a bunt hit right back to the pitcher Henry, who slipped as he plated his foot attempting to make the throw to third.

Kentucky returns to action on Wednesday, hosting the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be televised live on the Big Blue Sports Network, with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. ET.