No. 14 USC claims series with 11th inning rally

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Brison Celek smashed a one-out single in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift No. 14 South Carolina to a wild 7-6 walk-off win over No. 17 Kentucky, clinching the series, on Saturday afternoon, in front of 8,148 at Carolina Stadium.

Kentucky (24-14, 7-10 Southeastern Conference) and South Carolina battled through 11 innings in the nightcap of the series-opening doubleheader. After South Carolina won the opener, 5-3, the Gamecocks jumped out to a 5-1 lead entering the sixth. UK got a two-run homer from Greg Fettes to narrow the margin before A.J. Reed struck for a three-run, go-ahead homer in the seventh inning for a 6-5 UK lead.

In the eighth inning, after a leadoff error and a pair of outs moved the tying run into scoring position, UK called upon junior Trevor Gott, the school-record holder for saves in a season and career. Gott was called to face right-handed hitting Graham Saiko, who entered the at bat 0-for-9 on the day. Saiko drilled the first pitch from Gott into the outfield to score the game-tying run.

The two teams traded scoreless half innings until the bottom of the 11th inning, when No. 3 hitter Joey Pankake and late-game replacement Kyle Martin singled to start the frame. After a popped up bunt attempt, Celek smashed a single into leftfield, with Lucas Witt’s throw sailing up the first base side as Pankake scored the walk-off run.

The win for South Carolina snapped UK’s stretch of 64 consecutive wins when holding a lead after the seventh inning. The Wildcats were 19-0 in 2013 when holding a lead after the seventh and had not suffered a loss when leading after the seventh since 2011.

Gott (4-1) suffered his first loss of the year, working 2.2 innings in relief, allowing five hits and one run, walking one and striking out two. He is now 20-for-24 in his career in save chances.

UK got a dynamic performance from Chandler Shepherd in relief of starter Jerad Grundy, with Shepherd working 2.2 innings, allowing just a hit and the unearned, game-tying run in the eighth to score. Grundy finished five innings, allowing nine hits and five runs – four earned – walking none and striking out two.

UK collected nine hits in the game, with freshmen Fettes and Kyle Barrett recording two-hit games and junior centerfielder Austin Cousino going 2-for-4. Reed’s 10th homer of the year led him to three RBI, with Matt Reida and J.T. Riddle also adding hits. Zac Zellers drew two walks and was hit by a pitch.

South Carolina (30-10, 10-7 SEC) starter Jordan Montgomery, who entered with a 0.69 ERA, worked 5.2 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, walking two and striking out seven. USC used Vince Fiori, Colby Holmes and Adam Westmoreland in relief of Montgomery. Closer Tyler Webb (2-1) picked up the win with three dominating innings in relief, allowing just a UK single and striking out four, firing 27 of his 33 pitches for strikes.

The series will conclude on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET at Carolina Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send junior lefty Corey Littrell (4-2, 3.16 ERA) to the mound, with USC yet to announce a starter.

Kentucky took an early lead after grabbing one run in the top of the second. With one out, Riddle knocked a single into leftfield on his ninth pitch of the at bat. Fettes followed with a singled into centerfield and an error fielding the ball in center allowed Riddle to advance an extra base to third. Riddle on third and Fettes on first, Reida dropped down a sacrifice bunt, bringing home Riddle for the first run of the game.

Max Schrock responded for the Gamecocks in the bottom half of the second, hitting a leadoff home run over the rightfield wall to tie the game at 1-1. A throwing error that allowed Grayson Greiner to reach first gave South Carolina a new start and the Gamecocks would take advantage of it. With two outs and Greiner on first, Tanner English lined a triple into the right-centerfield gap, scoring Greiner from first and giving the Gamecocks a 2-1 lead.

Two doubles to open the bottom of the third led to three runs for South Carolina. Chase Vergason opened the inning with a ball off the top of the rightfield wall to reach second with a leadoff double. LB Dantzler followed with a ground-rule double into the South Carolina bullpen in right-centerfield, allowing Vergason to trot around and score from second. Schrock delivered his second hit of the game with a single into rightfield to put runners on first and third. A strike out and stolen base later, a wild pitch brought Dantzler in to score. Greiner capped off the inning with an RBI single up the middle, scoring Schrock.

A two-out, two-run homer from Fettes lessened the South Carolina lead to 5-3 in the top of the sixth. Reed led off the inning with a walk but was later out at second on a fielder’s choice that put Max Kuhn on first. After a fly out to leftfield for the second out of the inning, Fettes knocked a two-RBI homer over the leftfield wall.

Kentucky took the lead back in the seventh on the backs of a three-run home run from Reed. Barrett led off the inning by reaching on a hit by pitch and a Zellers walk placed runners on first and second with no outs. Cousino laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners into scoring position. Reed delivered for the Wildcats, blasting a three-run homer over the rightfield wall to put UK back in the lead at 6-5.

UK had a tremendous scoring chance in the top of the eighth inning, nursing a 6-5 lead. After a pair of outs, Zack Storm reached on an error by Westmoreleand. After Storm stole second, Barrett singled to put runners on the corners and two out for Zellers. Zellers hit a grounder up the middle that was bobbled at second base, with speedy Barrett sliding in safe. With Zellers anticipating the out at second base on the fielder’s choice, the throw was made to first after the bobble, keeping the seventh UK run of the game off the board on a bang-bang play.

South Carolina tied the game with one run in the bottom of the eighth after an error allowed Greiner to lead the inning off by reaching base. A sacrifice bunt moved Greiner to second and with two outs, he moved over to third on a wild pitch. Kentucky called on Gott in the jam and Saiko hit the first pitch he saw into rightfield for a single, bringing home the tying run Greiner.

After scoreless ninth and 10th innings, the Gamecocks brought across one run in the bottom of the 11th to win the game. Consecutive singles from Pankake and Martin to lead off the inning put runners on first and second with no outs. A pop out on a botched bunt attempt resulted in the first out of the inning but Celek delivered with a walk-off single through the left side to bring home Pankake, the winning run.


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