After falling behind by six runs to South Carolina, Kentucky rallied, tying the game by scoring six runs in the bottom half of the seventh and taking the lead when Ryan Strieby smashed a monstrous 3-run home run to left-center in the eighth. Lefty reliever Troy Ragle closed the door on the Cocks to nail down the 15-12 win and clinch the series against the 7th ranked Gamecocks.
"That might have been the very best game I've played in my career," Michael Bertram said. "You couldn't ask for a more electric game, with the fireworks at the end and everything."
"There is no quit in the Kentucky Wildcats and I think [Coach] John Cohen has instilled that in us in the beginning when he very first got here. We have strong beliefs in our ability as a team, and I can't tell you enough about how this team fought through adversity all day long and found a way to win the game."
With the game knotted at four apiece in the fifth inning, it appeared that the Gamecocks would take complete control of the contest. They smashed five straight hits against Kentucky starter Craig Snipp, seizing the lead at 8-4.
Justin Smoak belted a solo home run with one out in the seventh to start another Carolina rally. With two outs in the inning, Kentucky intentionally walked Neil Giesler to ensure there could be a force play at any base.
The next batter, second baseman Andrew Crisp, hit a slow rolling ground ball to third base. Kentucky's Matt McKinney charged and fielded the ball, but his throw pulled Ryan Strieby into the basepath. Crisp collided with Strieby's arm, jarring the ball loose and allowing two more Gamecock runs to score. Michael Campbell would single in one more run before Kentucky got out of the inning.
Facing a 12-6 deficit, it seemed as though the outcome to Saturday's game was already decided. But after drawing the largest crowd that anyone affiliated with Kentucky baseball can remember, the Batcats were not going to sit idly by while their fans filed for the exits.
After two hit batsmen, a couple of bloop singles, and an RBI double from Sean Coughlin, Kentucky trimmed Carolina's lead to 12-8.
With the bases full of Wildcats, Collin Cowgill singled on a groundball up the middle to plate two more Kentucky runs and narrow the margin to 12-10.
The next batter, John Shelby, drew a full count before being called out on a controversial check swing that infuriated head coach John Cohen to get him ejected for arguing. But Cohen's ejection just gave the Cats that much more motivation to want to comeback.
With two outs, pinch hitter Michael Bertram carried that motivation to the plate and ripped a single to left field that tied the game 12-12.
"Coach Cohen's got a lot of fire under his butt," Bertram said. "It was great to see his enthusiasm and it lifted us up emotionally. And, you know, we are a team that lives off of emotion. We thrive on emotion and we feed off the emotions of each other. Coach Cohen is just a great coach."
Troy Ragle, pitching for the first time in an SEC game, retired three straight Carolina hitters in the eighth to give UK the chance to take the lead.
In the eighth, Collin Cowgill hit a high fly ball to shallow right field. Second baseman Andrew Crisp tried to make a running catch, but the ball squirted out of his glove. The catch would hav ended the inning.
Instead, with two runners on, Ryan Strieby turned on a 2-1 fastball and sent it screaming over the left-center wall to put Kentucky on top 15-12, their first lead since the second inning
"All day I was struggling, I think I was 0 for 3 up to that at bat," Strieby said. "They just had me kind of confused there at the plate. It was 2-1, he had thrown three straight fastballs and he threw another fastball out over the plate and I was able to get the barrel to it."
"Emotionally, it is unbelievable, just an unbelievable high," Strieby added. "That was probably the biggest hit of my life right there."
With Kentucky, Troy Ragle breezed through the remaining Gamecock hitters to pick up his first decision win of the season.
With the victory, Kentucky clinched the series against the 7th ranked Gamecocks and moved to 29-10 on the year, 10-7 in the SEC. They will look to complete the sweep against South Carolina on Sunday at 1 p.m.