South Carolina (33-13, 11-10 SEC) enters the weekend's play as one of the top teams in the nation, having spent two weeks during the season ranked No. 1. The Gamecocks have crushed a staggering 80 home runs thus far into the season, including totaling four players with over 10 homers. James Darnell leads the way for USC blasting 15, while Justin Smoak (14 HR), Travis Jones (13), and Phil Disher (10) all check in with over 10 dingers. South Carolina has also gotten solid pitching from its staff, posting a 3.58 team ERA.
Kentucky will send its regular weekend trio to the hill, starting with sophomore Chris Rusin on Friday night. The southpaw has emerged as one of the top left-handed arms in the SEC, posting a 4-2 record and a 4.35 ERA. Rusin leads the team in strikeouts with 64, while tossing 68 1/3 innings. USC Friday night starter Ark Hempy ranks second on the club with a 1.87 ERA and a 4-1 record. Hempy has tossed 33 2/3 frames on the year, striking out 32. Saturday, UK will run out Andrew Albers (5-3, 4.94 ERA) to the mound to square off with Harris Honeycutt (7-3, 3.03 ERA). UK will send preseason All-American Greg Dombrowski to the bump on get-away day. Dombrowski has notched a 4-1 record and a 4.88 ERA in 55 1/3 innings. USC has yet to name a starter but will likely send either Blake Cooper (5-1, 2.25 ERA) or Mike Cisco (3-2, 4.63 ERA) to the mound.
The Wildcats have been led at the plate by seniors Mike Brown and Sean Coughlin. Brown leads the team with a .397 batting average, in addition to leading the SEC in runs scored with 59. Coughlin, on the watch list for the Dick Howser and Brooks Wallace awards, paces the league with 63 RBI, batting for a .348 average and cranking out 10 homers. Juniors Brian Spear, Sawyer Carroll, and Wilkes help round out the potent UK lineup. Spear leads the SEC in walks, reaching on 40 free passes. Carroll ranks second on the club in batting average (.368) and RBI (52). Wilkes, a fixture in the UK infield, has posted a .338 average, with 37 RBI.
The Gamecocks lead the all-time series between the two schools, 31-24. Last season, UK swept the three-game series in Lexington, before falling in round one of the SEC Tournament. In the regular season meetings, UK won the Friday night contest on a walk-off homer from future fifth-round draft selection, John Shelby. Shelby sent the first pitch from USC ace reliever Wynn Pelzer sky-rocketing over the center-field fence to give UK the walk off win in 11 marathon innings. UK took the series with a 15-12 win on Saturday, highlighted by a grand slam from eventual SEC Player of the Year Ryan Strieby. In round one of the tournament, UK held a 2-1 lead going into the ninth inning, before allowing a game-winning rally from the Gamecocks.
Kentucky (30-13-1, 9-11-1 SEC) at South Carolina (33-13, 11-10 SEC)
Friday, May 4 * 7 p.m. EDT
Saturday, May 5 * 6 p.m. EDT
Sunday, May 6 * 1:30 p.m. EDT
Sarge Frye Field (6,000)
Radio (Big Blue Sports Network with Neil Price)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM
Saturday: WLAP 630-AM
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM
South Carolina leads series, 31-24 ... Last season, UK swept the Gamecocks in Lexington, before dropping a round one matchup in the SEC Tournament.
UK: Chris Rusin (So., LHP) 4-2, 4.35 ERA, 68.1 IP, 66 H, 38 R, 33 ER, 27 BB, 64 SO
USC: Arik Hempy (Jr., LHP) 4-1, 1.87 ERA, 33.2 IP, 24 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 12 BB, 32 SO
UK: Andrew Albers (Jr., LHP) 5-3, 4.94 ERA, 58.1 IP, 74 H, 37 R, 32 ER, 14 BB, 43 SO
USC: Harris Honeycutt (Jr., RHP) 7-3, 3.03 ERA, 65.1 IP, 55 H, 27 R, 22 ER, 24 BB, 79 SO
UK: Greg Dombrowski (Jr., RHP) 4-1, 4.88 ERA, 55.1 IP, 79 H, 35 R, 30 ER, 7 BB, 38 SO