UK Baseball

Cats waste no-out threat in ninth

A complete-game performance by right-hander Blake Cooper carried South Carolina to a 4-2 victory over Kentucky in Sunday's rubber match of a three-game Southeastern Conference series.

If a game-time temperature of 38 degrees, wind chill 27, at Cliff Hagan Stadium didn't get the Wildcats down, surely their fifth loss in six games did. Right?

"The glass is half full," Coach Gary Henderson said. "We've got to continue to get better, though. Clearly, we're competing well. We need more wins. We're competing just fine."

The result left both teams with 4-5 SEC records. The teams stranded 10 runners each.

The Gamecocks (18-7) broke open a 1-1 game with a three-run seventh, then held off a UK rally in the ninth.

Cooper, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior, scattered eight hits, gave up four walks and hit a batter.

He took a 4-1 lead into the ninth. UK (16-9) was looking for a second consecutive ninth-inning, game-winning rally, having taken Saturday's second game 5-4 on a two-run walk-off homer by Andy Burns.

Sunday, Keenan Wiley led off with a single, and 8-9 hitters Spencer Korus and Chad Wright drew walks to load the bases with none out.

But Chris Bisson became Cooper's fifth strikeout victim of the day. Wiley scored on Chris Wade's sacrifice fly to left. Chris McClendon grounded out to end the game.

"We should have been able to do more with what we had in the ninth inning," Henderson said. "But if you wait until the ninth inning every time, sometimes it's not going to work and, obviously, it didn't tonight. ... That's a disappointing effort there, the bottom of the ninth.

"But the real issue is the first eight innings. You score one over eight innings, it's going to be tough to win a ball game."

Bisson and Korus each had two of UK's eight hits. Jackie Bradley Jr. had two of Carolina's eight hits.

The Wildcats got five-plus innings of one-run ball out of freshman right-hander Alex Meyer.

He survived a two-on, one-out jam in the first when left fielder Wright caught a fly ball and doubled up Bradley at the plate.

Meyer looked like Houdini after the Gamecocks loaded the bases with none out in the second. He struck out Scott Wingo, picked off Jeffrey Jones at second base, then got Bobby Haney on a dribbler to the mound.

From there, Meyer settled down. He allowed one run on three hits and six walks, striking out four.

"I felt like I went out there and did OK," Meyer said. "It wasn't my best, obviously. I was out of the strike zone there for a little bit. But I settled in. It was good. Hopefully, there's still some things that I've got to work on."

Fifth-inning doubles by Braden Kapteyn and Korus gave UK a 1-0 lead.

Carolina tied in the sixth. Nick Ebert drew his third walk in as many at-bats, took second on Meyer's third wild pitch, then scored on DeAngelo Mack's single up the middle. Tyler Henry took over for Meyer, retiring the next three batters in order.

But the Gamecocks took control in the seventh.

Haney knocked a one-out single, then took second when Bradley singled off Henry's glove.

Clint Tilford replaced Henry, only to be greeted by Whit Merrifield's fly-ball RBI-double just inside the right-field line.

With the infield drawn in, Ebert lined a two-run single past diving third baseman Chris McClendon.

UK stranded two runners in each of the last three innings.

The Cats will play host to Marshall on Tuesday, then visit Ole Miss for a three-game series next weekend.

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