Kentucky tops No. 2 South Carolina
Reed drives in winning run to help Wildcats stay perfect at 20-0
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A day after a heroic walk-off homer from Luke Maile, freshman A.J. Reed drove in the game-winning run with a double in the seventh inning and picked up the win on the mound in relief, leading No. 24 Kentucky to its school-record 20th consecutive win to open the season, posting a series-clinching 4-3 win against No. 2 South Carolina, in front of 1,950 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (20-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) won the first SEC series of the year in dramatic fashion.
After fighting to even the Saturday game in the sixth inning at 3-3, Reed lofted a fly ball double into leftfield, getting assistance from the wind, to score freshman Austin Cousino with the go-ahead run. The Wildcats then used a shutout frame from both Reed and Peterson in the eighth and closer Trevor Gott emerged for his fourth save of the season, striking out two in a perfect ninth inning.
Reed (4-0) picked up the win in relief, his second of the week. Twice in UK's four games this week, Reed has picked up the win on the mound and driven in the game-winning runs at the plate. He tossed two shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk, striking out two. On the year, Reed has a 1.83 ERA on the mound in 19.2 innings, batting .379 (25-for-66) at the plate with seven doubles, two homers and a club-best 28 RBI.
South Carolina (15-3, 0-2 SEC) preseason All-America right-hander Matt Price (2-1) - one of the top closers in college baseball the last two years and a hero from the USC College World Series titles - took the loss, allowing four runs in 6.1 innings, walking three and striking out five.
The win gives UK a school-record 20 consecutive wins to open the season, eclipsing the previous record for the longest winning streak and the best start to a season. In 2007 and 2008, UK opened with a 19-0 record. UK is the only unbeaten team remaining in college baseball, leading the NCAA with the longest winning streak and the most total wins.
The Wildcats got hits from seven of nine members of the starting lineup, with Cousino charting UK's lone multiple-hit game. Maile, Reed, Cameron Flynn and Michael Williams each had RBI to complement their knocks, with Zac Zellers and J.T. Riddle also delivering hits. Riddle recorded his seventh double of the year, while Zellers joined Cousino to score two of UK's four runs from the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the order.
UK's series win against South Carolina is its first since taking 2-of-3 in a series in Lexington in 2010. The Wildcats will be seeking the first series sweep against the powerhouse Gamecocks since the 2006 SEC championship season, when UK swept USC in Lexington.
UK starter Jerad Grundy went 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking three and striking out three. Grundy finished one out shy of his third quality start of the year and over his last three starts, the lefty has posted a 2-0 record and a 1.80 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 20 innings.
South Carolina (15-2, 0-1 SEC) starter Matt Price worked 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking three and striking out five. Lefty specialist Tyler Webb replaced Price in the seventh, getting one out and allowing a hit. Righty Forrest Koumas replaced him in the two-on, two-out jam in the seventh, getting the final out of the frame. Koumas went 1.1 shutout innings with one walk and one strikeout.
The series will conclude on Sunday, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
In the bottom of the first Kentucky jumped on the board as Cousino singled to the opposite field to lead off. Zellers then followed him up by working the count full before getting plunked in the shoulder by the pitch, moving Cousino to second. Maile brought in Cousino on the first pitch of the at bat when he laced a line drive into shallow left. A fielder's choice moved Zellers to third and allowed Reed reach first safely. A deep fly ball down the left field line allowed Flynn to bring home Zellers on the sacrifice fly.
A leadoff single from Erik Payne got the Gamecock second started. Shortstop Joey Pankake walked, which brought up Sean Sullivan. Sullivan laid down a sacrifice bunt, which was misplayed by Grundy allowing Sullivan to reach. The next batter, Dante Rosenberg, grounded into a routine 4-6-3 double play allowing Payne to score with ease. The inning came to a close when Evan Marzilli grounded out to Riddle at second.
Christian Walker led off the visitors half of the sixth with a hard-hit line drive into the right-centerfield alley. Grayson Greiner then brought him home with a hard line drive down the left field line on the first pitch of the at bat for a double. A high fly ball by LB Dantzler allowed Greiner to tag up and reach third safely. Another fly into centerfield by Payne brought home Greiner on the sacrifice, which increased the Gamecock lead to 3-2. Pankake then hit a line drive to shallow-center, which dropped in for a single. Senior backstop Michael Williams stopped the bleeding with a strike to Riddle at second nailing the runner.
The leadoff walk to Flynn brought up the senior third-baseman McCarthy who was plunked by the pitch, moving Flynn to second on the dead ball. Riddle then grounded into a 5-3 double play and moved McCarthy into second with two men out. A hard chopper up the box scored McCarthy from second to knot the score at 3-3.
With his second hit of the day, Cousino reached first to leadoff the Kentucky home half of the seventh. The sacrifice bunt by Zellers moved Cousino to second, followed by an intentional walk to Maile to put two on with one away. Webb came on in relief of Price and to get the left-on-left matchup with Reeed. Reed skied a double to left, which scored Cousino and moved Maile to third. The All-SEC third baseman, McCarthy then took his place at the plate and drew the four-pitch walk. Riddle followed and with the bases-loaded fisted one into center but a great read off the bat by Pankake ended the bottom half of the inning with Kentucky up 4-3.
Dantzler drew a two-out walk and moved to second on the line drive single by Payne. With Kyle Martin at the plate, the Gamecocks pinch-ran Dantzler for Connor Bright and Kentucky went to the bullpen in favor of Peterson with two on and two out. Peterson ended the Gamecock threat with a strikeout on pinch-hitter Martin to close the visitors half of the eighth.
Pinch-hitter Michael Roth laced a double to right center to leadoff the ninth inning. Kentucky then brought in Gott who first faced Rosenberg, who laid down the sacrifice bunt to move pinch runner T.J. Costen to third with one out. Gott retired Marzilli via the strikeout and then ended the game with three consecutive strikes to punch out pinch-hitter Bryson Celek.