Just two outs away from an opening round win, South Carolina (37-20) broke the game open with a four-run rally in the ninth, highlighted by a two-run home run from pinch-hitter Jon Willard. The blast came with one out and erased UK's tenuous 1-0 lead.
The Gamecocks then tacked on two more runs in the inning to push its lead to 4-1 after Andrew Crisp scored on a fielder's choice and Phil Disher came home on a Cheyne Hurst single.
The Wildcats went down swinging in the bottom of the ninth. Collin Cowgill led off the inning with a solo home run over the right-field fence to narrow the Gamecock margin to 4-2. Kentucky then loaded the bases, but couldn't drive in the winning runs as Billy Grace struck out and Ryan Wilkes ended the game with a pop up.
Kentucky (42-14) was paced by a brilliant performance on the mound from starter Tommy Warner. He threw a career-high 8 1/3 innings and tied a career-high with five strikeouts. He took the loss to fall to 3-1 on the season. Entering the game, he had thrown just six innings against SEC competition in his career.
South Carolina starter Mike Cisco earned the win to improve to 6-4 on the season. Reliever Wynn Pelzer entered in the ninth and held on to earn his fifth save of the season.
Uncharacteristically, the two teams were held scoreless through seven innings. In the regular season series meeting between the two teams, Kentucky swept the Gamecock's in dramatic fashion. The two teams combined for 67 runs in the three-game set which saw UK blast eight home runs.
Kentucky second-team All-SEC catcher Sean Coughlin broke up a scoreless game with a towering lead-off home run in the seventh to put UK up 1-0. The blast over the right-field fence marked Coughlin's 17th of the season, which is best among league backstops.
The Wildcats return to action in the second round of the SEC Tournament tomorrow when they face off with the loser of the Vanderbilt/Arkansas game at 11 a.m. ET. The game can be heard live on WXRA 1580-AM and can be seen live on CSS. The game will be carried in the Lexington area on Insight channel 70.
Sean Coughlin hit his 17th home run of the season in the seventh ... Tommy Warner threw a outstanding game, tying a career-high with five strikeouts in a career-best 8 1/3 innings ... Collin Cowgill hit his 16th home run of the season in the ninth ... Kentucky lost its third straight SEC Tournament game while making its first appearance since 2000.