Joey Pankake and DC Arendas each belted their third homers of the season and freshman right-hander Wil Crowe worked six-plus innings to improve to 5-0 on the year as top ranked South Carolina defeated Kentucky 8-3 in the series finale at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Gamecocks are 19-3 and 3-3 in the SEC with Kentucky 17-3 and 3-3 in league play.
Arendas’ solo homer was a solo shot in the fifth inning with Pankake belting a three-run blast to give the Gamecocks some insurance runs in the ninth inning. Pankake has a 10-game hitting streak as he went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Connor Bright added two hits, a RBI and two run scored with Arendas also scoring two runs.
Crowe did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. He finished allowing three runs on four hits with a pair of walks and two strikeouts. Junior right-hander Joel Seddon picked up his seventh save with 2.1 perfect innings and four strikeouts. Kentucky starting pitcher Andrew Nelson suffered the loss and is 1-1 on the year. He worked 5.1 innings and allowed five runs, four earned, on five hits with a pair of walks and five strikeouts.
“It was a big game for us and a big win,” said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. “It was important to try and get a game up here. We played well, played good defense, Wil got us off to a good start and we got a couple big swings of the bat. We try to pride ourselves on winning on Sunday. If we are going to have a great year, you have to win on Sunday. We’ll take it, get on the bus, regroup and try to play a little bit better next week.”
South Carolina manufactured a run in the top of the second inning to take the early lead, a lead they would never relinquish. Bright led off with a single and Taylor Widener walked to give the Gamecocks a pair of runners with no outs. After a sacrifice bunt by Arendas moved both runners over, Tanner English lifted a sac fly to left-center scoring Bright and giving the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead.
Arendas’ third homer of the year increased South Carolina’s lead to 2-0 in the fifth inning. Leading off the frame, Arendas launched a 2-0 pitch to right-center for the Gamecocks’ first homer of the series. Kentucky answered with a run in the bottom half to cut the Gamecock lead back to a run. Ka’ai Tom reached base on a two-out infield single, the first hit by UK in the game. He would then score on Storm Wilson’s RBI double to the gap in left-center.
Carolina responded in the top of the 6th with three more runs to go ahead 5-1. Pankake led off with a single to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and Kyle Martin followed with a base hit. With one out and the runners still on first and second base, Connor Bright knocked a base hit into right-center scoring Pankake. UK right fielder Kyle Barrett threw towards third in attempt to get Martin and allowed Bright to advance to second base. Taylor Widener would then hit a hard chopper to second base that UK’s JaVon Shelby could not handle allowing both Martin and Bright to score. Kentucky would get a run back in the bottom of the 6th. JaVon Shelby reached base on a hit by pitch, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Kyle Barrett’s RBI single to left-center.
Kentucky crept to within two in the seventh inning as pinch hitter Marcus Carson tallied a two-out RBI single. With runners on first and second and two outs, Seddon entered and struck out Kyle Barrett to keep the Gamecocks ahead 5-3.
It would remain that way until the ninth inning. Arendas was hit by a pitch and pinch hitter Elliott Caldwell drew a two-out walk setting the stage for Pankake. On a full count pitch, Pankake launched a deep blast to left-center to give the Gamecocks a five-run advantage.
“I got that one pretty good,” said Pankake. “It felt really good and it felt even better to get three more runs and give a little cushion going into the bottom of the 9th.”
South Carolina returns home to begin a six-game homestand on Tuesday vs. College of Charleston. First pitch is 7 p.m. with the game available on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”