Friday started off good for South Carolina baseball — and things got even better in the evening.
On the same day the Gamecocks were named one of 20 potential hosts for an NCAA tournament regional, they also won their first SEC series opener in seven weeks, going on the road and topping Kentucky 12-6.
With the victory, No. 25 USC managed to overcome what has been one of its biggest struggles over the past two months; the only other Game 1 win the Gamecocks have had in that time took 14 innings against Florida. It also gives coach Mark Kingston’s club two more opportunities to secure the series victory, which will likely be crucial for Carolina’s regional hosting hopes.
The win also pushes South Carolina back above .500 in SEC play at 13-12 after a tough three-series stretch.
Throughout South Carolina’s series-opening woes these past few weeks, the Gamecocks had been haunted by an inability to produce much offense, frequently falling behind early. On Friday, though USC jumped on the Wildcats right away — junior outfielder Brady Allen and senior outfielder Andrew Eyster singled on the very first and second pitches of the game, respectively,
That was followed by an RBI infield single for junior first baseman Wes Clarke and another RBI single from junior outfielder Josiah Sightler. Sophomore second baseman Braylen Wimmer capped the outburst with a two-run triple into the right field corner, staking USC to a quick 4-0 lead.
Senior starter Brannon Jordan, meanwhile, struggled some with his command, issuing four walks in the first three innings. He also was roughed up with a single and two doubles in the third as Kentucky trimmed the Gamecocks’ advantage to 4-3.
The game was only close for a moment, though. In the top of the fourth with runners on first and second, Allen drove in a run with a single up the middle for his second hit of the day — he finished the evening 3 for 4 at the plate after entering the game having gone 2 for his last 27.
Junior DH David Mendham pushed another run across with a sacrifice fly, and Sightler followed with a ground-rule double to left-center field to score another. At 3-for-3 on the night, Sightler had his first multi-hit game in nearly a month and also busted out of a 5-for-35 slump.
Kentucky made things relatively easy for the Gamecocks to expand their lead in the fifth, with three wild pitches from Wildcat pitching allowing two more runs to score. An RBI groundout from Clarke got USC to double figures for the first time since April 11.
Well-supported by his offense, Jordan bounced back to finish five innings with no further damage, picking up the win with six strikeouts.
After his departure, the Wildcats did manage to scratch a few more runs across in the seventh off relievers Daniel Lloyd and Andrew Peters, using a combination of two singles, a walk, an RBI single and a wild pitch. But the Gamecocks responded in the next half-inning with three walks and a hit batter, followed by a solo home run for Wimmer in the top of the ninth.
NEXT USC BASEBALL GAMES
Who: No. 25 South Carolina vs. Kentucky
When: 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Kentucky Proud Park, Lexington, Kentucky
Watch: Streaming online on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN