The University of Kentucky baseball team cleared the first hurdle in its path toward a Southeastern Conference Tournament title.
Kole Cottam hit a tape-measure home run in the fourth inning to give the Cats the lead, and Evan White added a three-run double as Kentucky defeated South Carolina 7-2 in the second round on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.
No. 3 seed Kentucky (39-18) advanced to the third round, where it will face No. 2 seed LSU on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. LSU defeated No. 10 seed Missouri 10-3 on Wednesday night.
The Cats made a winner of newly minted SEC Coach of the Year Nick Mingione in his SEC Tournament debut as a head coach.
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“I’m really proud of our team,” he said during an interview with the SEC Network after the game. “I never met an SEC Coach of the Year who didn’t have good players, so we’ll give them a lot of credit. This group has bought into everything we do.”
No. 11 seed South Carolina (33-24) dropped into the losers’ bracket for a matchup against Missouri.
Cottam’s solo blast off South Carolina starter Cody Morris broke a 2-2 tie and traveled well over 400 feet. It landed high off the batter’s eye located directly above the 405-foot sign in center field.
In his last four games, Cottam is 9-for-16 (.563) with two homers, four runs and five RBI.
In the sixth, White came to the plate with the bases loaded and ripped a double into the gap in right-center. All three runners scored to give the Cats a 6-2 lead.
White told the SEC Network that he made an adjustment in his swing after starting out 0-for-3.
“I felt in my previous at-bats I was yanking off the ball a little bit,” he said. “So I was really just trying not to do too much there, stay within myself and pick up my brothers.”
Mingione said White’s three-run double was “the story of the day.” He also praised the performance of UK relief pitchers Zach Logue and Chris Machamer.
Logue (7-5), who had been a starter in all 14 of his appearances until Wednesday, opened the fourth inning in relief of starter Brad Schaenzer and pitched three scoreless innings to get the win.
Machamer, a freshman, came on in the seventh and also worked three scoreless innings.
“I thought our bullpen did awesome,” Mingione said. “Six innings and no runs.”
Kentucky vs. LSU
When: 9 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Online: WatchESPN app
Radio: WLAP-AM 630