Despite an undefeated start, respect for Kentucky's baseball team has come grudgingly. Two straight victories over South Carolina, the two-time defending national champions, could go a long way to change that.
Closer Trevor Gott came in to get three outs in the ninth after a leadoff double and UK beat the Gamecocks 4-3 Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium to improve to 20-0 overall — the best start in school history — and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
Gott, a sophomore right-hander from Tates Creek High School, was brought in after Michael Roth doubled. A sacrifice bunt sent Roth to third, but Gott struck out the next two batters to secure his fourth save.
Less than 18 hours earlier in the opener of the three-game series, Luke Maile's two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth rallied the Wildcats to a victory by the same 4-3 score.
The Cats are ranked 16th in the Collegiate Baseball poll (of sports information directors) and 20th in the USA Today poll (of coaches), but they are unranked by Baseball America (which polls its staff). South Carolina (15-3, 0-2) is ranked second, third and third in the three polls.
Kentucky didn't lead Friday night until Maile's walk-off blast, but it wasted no time getting ahead Saturday. Maile's single to left knocked in the first run with no outs in the first inning, and one out later, Cameron Flynn's foul-ball sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
South Carolina loaded the bases with no outs in the second on a single, a walk and an error, but UK turned the first of its three double plays and got out of the inning allowing just one run.
The Gamecocks took the lead in the sixth. Christian Walker and Grayson Greiner started the inning with consecutive doubles to tie the game 2-2. A flyout got Greiner to third and he scored on Erik Payne's sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. That knocked out UK starter Jerad Grundy.
UK answered immediately in the bottom of the inning. Flynn walked to lead off and Thomas McCarthy was hit by a pitch. A third-to-first double play put McCarthy at second, and he scored on Mike Williams' single up the middle to make it 3-3.
Kentucky pushed across what proved to be the winning run in the seventh. Freshman Austin Cousino singled, his second hit of the game, and he went to second on Zac Zellers' bunt. Maile was intentionally walked, but A.J. Reed foiled the strategy with a double to left to score Cousino.