The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead thanks to the first career home run by freshman first baseman Evan White and some stellar defensive play by UK left fielder Ka’ai Tom – who robbed USC of a home run and another extra-base hit – but had no answer for the Trojans after they took the lead on a two-run homer by Timmy Robinson in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Robinson, who went 2-for-4 with three RBI to lead USC, had been robbed of a home run by Tom in the fourth inning. Bobby Stahel and David Oppenheim also had RBI hits for the Trojans (5-0).
Junior left-hander Gilbert (1-0) made it stand up, holding UK to two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight.
Kentucky starter Dustin Beggs (1-1) allowed three runs on five hits and two walks over 4.2 innings of work, but relievers Andrew Nelson and Bo Wilson each gave a run out of the bullpen while the UK bats cooled off.
The Wildcats (2-1) got a career-high three-hit night from junior centerfielder Kyle Barrett. UK also got hits from White, Storm Wilson, Thomas Bernal, Tom, JaVon Shelby and Greg Fettes.
Gary Henderson’s club returns to action Friday, opening at three-game series at UC Santa Barbara. Game one begins at 5 p.m. ET.
UK SOFTBALL TAKES TWO:
Kentucky softball also escaped the wintery weather in the Bluegrass State, playing a pair of games on Thursday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.
Junior shortstop Christian Stokes went 5-for-5 to tie the school record for hits in a game in the No. 9 Wildcats' 13-1 run-rule win over Long Beach State, while fellow junior Kelsey Nunley tossed 6.2 strong innings in the circle to help beat No. 10 Arizona 5-2.
Sophomore Breanne Ray also hit her first home run of the season in the win over Arizona, UK's 13th over a Top 10 team in the last three years under coach Rachel Lawson.
Kentucky (8-2) returns to action Friday at 1 p.m. ET against LIU Brooklin before playing Oregon State at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic is one of the largest and most competitive Division I softball tournaments outside of the NCAA and Southeastern Conference tournament. This year's event features 35 teams, including 18 that made last season's NCAA tournament and three of the eight Women's College World Series teams.