South Carolina pitching staff stuffs vaunted Kentucky offense

South Carolina pitching staff stuffs vaunted Kentucky offense

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**

South Carolina had faced Kentucky four previous times prior to Friday's SEC quarterfinal matchup. The Wildcats had won three of those four meetings, scoring a combined 36 runs in the process. Among those games was a humiliating 19-1 defeat back in Columbia during the regular season series.

The Gamecocks were matched up against Kentucky again on Friday with the two teams fighting for a spot in the SEC Tournament semifinals. Led by starter Adam Hill, the Gamecock pitching staff befuddled the Wildcats all afternoon long in a 3-1 victory.

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Kentucky scored an unearned run in the first inning, but the SEC leaders in almost every offensive category would be held off the board for the final eight innings. 

"Our pitching was outstanding," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "Adam got us off to a great start, and then Josh and Reed and Tyler came in the game and were special. Just a big win."

The Wildcats left nine runners on base, and Hill gave up just three hits in six innings pitched. In the fifth inning, Kentucky had runners at second and third with two outs, but Hill struck out Evan White to end the inning. Hill came back in the sixth inning and needed just nine pitches to shut down the Wildcats again.

It's not the first time Hill has dominated Kentucky. In the regular season series, Hill gave up just one hit and one run in five innings pitched to pick up the lone Gamecock win of the three-game set.

"Out of all the guys we've faced this year, for whatever reason he was one of the guys that our guys had trouble seeing the ball against," Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione said of Hill. "There's some real deception in that delivery." 

Josh Reagan came into the game in the seventh to take over for Hill, and he would ultimately pick up the victory. Reagan scattered three hits in 1.2 innings pitched. With two outs in the eighth inning, he was replaced by Reed Scott, who was in a difficult situation with the tying run sitting at second base.

No worries, Scott got a groundout to second to preserve the two-run lead for the Gamecocks.

"Luckily he had a few bullets left and wasn't too sore and was able to go out there and get us maybe the two biggest outs of our season," Holbrook said. 

After a runner reached base with one out in the ninth, closer Tyler Johnson was brought in. He did what he does best – shut the door on an opponent. 

A strikeout and a groundout later, Johnson was celebrating a huge victory with his teammates. The Gamecocks will now hope to string together another quality performance against LSU on Saturday. They'll be playing a game for the fifth consecutive day, so the bullpen is already stretched. 

Colby Lee and John Parke will be a couple of the players counted on to pitch several innings. It's a tough spot for sure, but now that South Carolina is this close, it's all about finding that little extra something to get the job done. 

"Those seniors who pitched today, they're just going to have to get in the jacuzzi and loosen up a little bit tonight and hopefully recover a little bit and get an out or two tomorrow," Holbrook concluded.