South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks beat Kentucky Wildcats again to earn spot in SEC Tournament semifinals

South Carolina baseball beat the Kentucky Wildcats 6-5 in Hoover to advance to the SEC Tournament semis where they will have a chance for revenge against LSU.
South Carolina baseball outfielder Blake Jackson
South Carolina baseball outfielder Blake Jackson / Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina baseball has been on a wild ride this week. The SEC Tournament has seen the Gamecocks match up with the Alabama Crimson Tide and Arkansas Razorbacks (two teams that beat Carolina in three-game series earlier this season), and Mark Kingston's team won both times. Then, they scored 10 runs but lost in a heartbreaker to the LSU Tigers when former Gamecock Michael Braswell snuck a single by third base.

In Friday's win-or-go-home game, South Carolina drew the Kentucky Wildcats, a team who would love to get some revenge on USC for the series loss they experienced at Founders Park a few weeks ago.

The game looked favorable on paper for the YardCocks as the pitching matchup was Dylan Eskew vs. Mason Moore. That was the same starting pitching duo back in April when the Gamecocks wound up winning 10-0. Eskew (obviously) gave up 0 runs, while Moore surrendered 9.

The way things started on Friday afternoon, though, it became apparent the game wouldn't play out like that one did.

The Wildcats scored 2 runs in the 2nd inning as 2nd baseman Parker Noland booted a routine groundball, the USC infield couldn't get an out on a sacrifice bunt attempt (catcher Dalton Reeves probably should have made the play), and a big hop got through thanks to the infield playing up with two runners on base.

The Gamecocks answered with a 3-run bomb from Gavin Casas that wound up in the trees beyond the right field wall. It was the longest home run of the SEC Tournament so far (just edging out one of Cole Messina's dingers), and Carolina ended the frame up 3-2.

Tyler Dean had a shutdown 3rd inning, and the Gamecock offense squandered a bases loaded opportunity in the bottom half of the frame. Casas made a nice play in the field in the 4th but then followed it up with an ugly error that, partnered with Will Tippett missing the bag on a would-be double play, wound up costing the team two runs.

The two freebies for the 'Cats marked the Gamecocks' 5th and 6th runs allowed due to errors in the past two games (on 7 errors). That number is even higher when one considers the "should have been made" plays that weren't ruled as errors in the scorebook.

Will Tippett tied the game in the 5th with a solo home run, and Mason Moore imploded after that. The UK starter walked Blake Jackson and Cole Messina and hit Parker Noland and Kennedy Jones before being removed from the game. When Cameron O'Brien took over, he allowed one of the inherited runners from Moore to score, and Carolina had flipped the game, giving themselves a 6-4 lead.

Parker Marlatt continued his excellent day of relief. The freshman had 6 strikeouts and 0 walks over 3 2/3 innings of work, allowing just one Kentucky Wildcat to cross home plate.

Matthew Becker came on in the 8th and induced a double play lineout to Ethan Petry to end the frame. Becker went back out to the mound for the 9th and blew the 'Cats away for 2 strikeouts and a weak pop-up to preserve the 6-5 win. Becker earned the save, and Marlatt was the winning pitcher.

The Gamecocks will get another crack at the LSU Tigers on Saturday for a chance to play in the SEC Tournament championship on Sunday. The game is set for 1:00 PM ET and will be shown on the SEC Network and ESPN app.

Gavin Casas left the game with what was reported later in the broadcast as a broken hamate bone in his hand. If the injury is confirmed, barring a Christian Walker-like situation, his season and South Carolina baseball career (at least on the field) likely are over.


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