**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**
Trailing by three runs midway through Sunday's series finale against Kentucky, South Carolina fought back to tie the game at four, but five runs by the Wildcats in the eighth and ninth innings were enough to put the Gamecocks away in a 9-4 victory.
The win gave SEC East-leading Kentucky the series, and the Gamecocks have now lost five straight SEC series for the first time ever.
"I was proud of our guys' effort and their want-to and their will to play and fight back," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "(Kentucky) is a good team."
Ross Grosvenor drove in the first Gamecock run of the day and John Jones' two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth trimmed the Kentucky lead down to one run. Both of those players entered this weekend with no RBI, but Grosvenor racked up three over the three games while Jones hit his first home run of the season. While that spark didn't produce a series win, it's important nonetheless as the regular season draws to a close.
"All I can do is control my attitude and hope people catch on to that and take a liking to that attitude," Jones said. "You can either hope someone does it, or do it. I'm trying to do it."
Despite being unable to come up with that elusive conference series win in more than a month, the Gamecocks (25-17, 10-11 SEC) are continuing to remain confident with three league series remaining in the regular season.
"Coach always says that those who choose to go away are the ones that go away, and we're not going to be that team," Tyler Johnson said.
Grosvenor pinch hit for the Gamecocks in the blowout loss on Friday, and his RBI double allowed the Gamecocks to keep from being shut out. He started in Saturday's win and had a RBI single.
The senior kept delivering on Sunday.
In the bottom of the second inning, Grosvenor turned on a fastball and sent it over the wall in straightaway center to put the Gamecocks on top.
However, that lead didn't last long. In the third inning Marcus Carson was hit by a pitch to lead things off. After a sacrifice bunt, Carson came home on a RBI single by Tristan Pompey to tie the game. The Wildcats (31-14, 14-7 SEC) would quickly take the lead on a two-run homer by Evan White. Parke recovered and was able to get a couple of popups to end the inning.
The Wildcats would add another run off Parke in the fourth. Troy Squires hit a ball that bounced off Riley Hogan at first for a double, and he would come home on a single by Tyler Marshall to make it 4-1. That would be it for Parke, who gave up four runs on five hits in 3.1 innings pitched.
Kentucky starter Justin Lewis was pitching well against the Gamecocks on Sunday, and was coming off a complete game performance against LSU last weekend. However, the reserves for South Carolina continued to step up.
After a Madison Stokes leadoff double in the fifth, Jones blasted a two-run homer to right to cut the deficit to one run. Jones had just one hit entering Sunday.
"When you're called upon, that's when you get yourself locked in and ready to play," Jones said.
With two outs in the fifth, LT Tolbert singled before the red-hot Carlos Cortes tied the game on a double to right field. After falling behind by three runs, suddenly it was a new ballgame.
Kentucky nearly took the lead in the sixth, but then Jacob Olson happened. Carson singled to right, and the runner at second took off for home. Olson's throw was right at Jones, who nailed the tag to end the inning.
That assist followed another one at home plate in the fifth where Olson had another perfect throw to Jones to save another run.
The Gamecocks brought in Johnson in the eighth inning one day after he closed the door on the Wildcats in Saturday's 5-1 win. However, on Sunday Kentucky figured the junior out.
Riley Mahan walked with one out, stole second on a strikeout, and with two outs he came home on a RBI single by Marshall that gave the Wildcats a 5-4 lead. Pompey made it 7-4 when his hard-hit grounder bounced off Tolbert's glove at second for a two-run error.
"His command wasn't quite what it usually is," Holbrook said of Johnson. "But he's alright. I'll take my chances with T.J. any day of the week."
After a leadoff single in the ninth, Johnson was replaced by Colie Bowers. After Jones threw out a runner at second, Luke Becker walked and Mahan blasted a two-run homer to right that made it 9-4 Kentucky. Wildcats reliever Logan Salow struck out 10 Gamecocks and didn't allow a hit in 4.2 innings to pick up his second win of the season.
The Gamecocks return to action on May 3 with a midweek contest against Wofford at Founders Park.