**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**
South Carolina was looking for a good start to its series against Kentucky on Friday, but that was not to be.
Wil Crowe was not his usually dominant self, and the Gamecock defense was shaky behind him as Kentucky jumped out to an 8-0 lead after four and a half innings.
That would be more than enough as the Wildcats defeated South Carolina, 19-1, to take the opening game of the three-game set. It was the worst loss in Founders Park history and the worst loss at home overall in 20 years.
"Obviously a difficult evening for us," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "(Kentucky) was awesome in all facets of the game. Their pitching was outstanding and they look like a complete team playing at a high level right now. We weren't good enough to put up a fight against them. One game, hopefully we'll bounce back and play better."
In the first four innings, the Gamecocks committed two errors, had two passed balls and one wild pitch, all of that leading to three unearned runs for Kentucky.
"There's a couple plays that we had to make that weren't very difficult," Holbrook said. "(Kentucky) obviously capitalized on them."
Kentucky started the game with back-to-back singles off Crowe. However, Zach Reks popped up the bunt attempt, and Crowe was able to pick Tristan Pompey off second base for a double play. Crowe would then give up a walk, but struck out Riley Mahan to end the frame.
The Wildcats put the first two batters of the second inning on base to create some more trouble for Crowe. Troy Squires singled and Tyler Marshall reached on an error before a fielder's choice put runners on the corners with one out. Connor Heady delivered the game's first run with a RBI single to left to score Squire.
Just like he did in the first inning, Crowe got a big strikeout to end the top of the second. Unfortunately for him, Kentucky would continue to see the ball well off the junior pitcher. With one out in the top of the third, Mahan doubled off the wall in left to put two in scoring position with just one out. Squires would send both runners home with a single to right that made it 3-0. It would be 4-0 after Pompey singled, but Jacob Olson threw Marshall out at home plate to end the inning.
More mistakes in the top of the fourth led to another Kentucky run. Evan White was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a passed ball, third on a double play, and scored on a wild pitch by Crowe to make it 5-0.
Crowe settled down slightly to set down four in a row, but with two outs in the fifth, back-to-back singles finally chased him. He was replaced by Colby Lee, who promptly gave up a three-run home run to Pompey to make it 8-0 Wildcats, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Crowe gave up seven runs, four earned, on 10 hits in 4.2 innings pitched. He struck out four and walked three.
"They had a good approach," Crowe said of the Wildcats. "They hit the ball well. Just one of those days where everything they were hitting was hit hard. Tip your hat to them and come back tomorrow and try and get a game."
The Wildcats would continue to pile it on as they ultimately scored in six consecutive innings. They added three runs in the sixth and five more in the top of the seventh. Pinch-hitter Luke Becker was the main culprit of the five-spot as he launched a three-run homer over the bullpen in right-center to make it 16-0.
Pinch-hitter Ross Grosvenor ended the shutout with a RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning. Three more runs by the Wildcats in the top of the ninth inning, including a two-run home run by Becker, made it a 19-1 final.
Game two of the series is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday. Adam Hill will be on the mound for the Gamecocks, who will try to even up the series.
"It was bad, but we get to wake up again tomorrow and play a game that we love," Crowe concluded. "We have a great opportunity to tie the series up and have a chance to win it on Sunday."