Gamecocks take series in dramatic fashion

It took extra innings but the Gamecocks managed to take the game and the series Saturday night at Carolina Stadium when Brady Thomas drove in Adrian Morales from third to give Carolina the 4-3 victory in the bottom of the 10th. All-American closer Matt Price earned the win after pitching two perfect innings in the ninth and tenth. South Carolina improved to 21-5 (6-2 SEC) on the season.

Senior catcher Brady Thomas walked to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded and the potential tying run at third and just one out. The often-clutch Thomas struck out swinging on a ball in the dirt.

In the bottom of the tenth, Thomas, who also delivered a game-winning hit in last year's College World Series, got another chance.

"I was just trying to stay short and put the ball in play," Thomas said. "You have to give that guy credit, he had some good stuff, so I was just trying to keep it short and get the ball in play."

And he did just that.

With Adrian Morales on third and Jake Williams at first and just one down, Thomas turned on a pitch and rifled it at the second baseman. He couldn't play the hop as it ricocheted off his glove and into the grass. There was no need for a slide as Morales raced home and gave the Gamecocks the come-from-behind victory.

"He has a reputation of being that kind of guy," head coach Ray Tanner said. "He seems to have his better at bats when the chips are down. He had one earlier today, an opportunity where they got him but you are going to get a battle and he squared up that ball pretty good. It was a tough play for the second baseman."

The run wouldn't have been so easy for Morales if the alert senior hadn't swiped third earlier in Thomas' at-bat when freshman pitcher Trevor Gott seemed to forget about him.

"Adrian has as much savvy about this game as anyone I've coached," Tanner said. "If he sees a situation, he will capitalize. The only thing we can do is stop him, and if he sees it then it's okay. We weren't putting the hold on him. The rule in that situation is you have to be safe, you can't be out... and he did a good job reading it."

The pitcher "kind of forgot about me," Morales said. "Tanner winked at me, and he trusts me to steal third."

It was another win for Tanner and pitching coach Jerry Meyer's bullpen as All-American closer Matt Price (3-2) sat down all six of the batters he faced in the ninth and tenth innings to earn the win.

The Gamecocks never would have had the opportunity to win it if not for an RBI single from Williams that tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth.

With one out in the inning, Jackie Bradley, Jr. got hit-by-pitch and clean-up man Christian Walker then doubled into the left-field corner.

After a Morales walk loaded the bases, Williams returned a fastball up the middle that was hit so hard all three base runners had to freeze. Bradley, Jr. scored to tie the game but Thomas and pinch-hitter Greg Brodzinski struck out to end the inning.

While neither starting pitcher figured into the decision, Carolina starter Colby Holmes and Kentucky starter Corey Littrell, both making their first career SEC starts, gave their team solid outings.

Littrell gave up his only two runs of the game in the second inning. Morales led off the inning with a double and in a sign of things to come, scored on a Thomas single. Robert Beary scored on an Evan Marzilli RBI-single later in the inning.

Littrell gave up six hits and walked three while striking out one in six innings of work.

Holmes gave up his only two runs of the game when Kentucky scored two in the third inning. Lucas Witt doubled to open the inning setting the table for RBI-singles from Chad Wright and Braden Kapteyn that tied the game at 2-2.

Holmes gave up 7 hits and struck out 4 in five innings of work.

"I thought Colby Holmes gave us a quality start," Tanner said. "He battled. I've seen him a little bit sharper than that. He didn't walk anybody. Gave up a few hits and he had some strikeouts.

Kentucky took the lead 3-2 in the seventh when Bryan Harper led off the inning by walking J.T. Riddle. Luke Maile sacrificed Riddle to second but also took third base when no one covered the base.

John Taylor came in to face pinch-hitter Brian Adams and got him to chop back to the mound for the second out, but an in-field hit by Witt scored Riddle. Shortstop Peter Mooney made a valiant effort fielding the ball in the hole, spinning and getting the throw there in time but it pulled Walker off first.

From that point on Taylor and Price combined didn't allow a base runner over the final 2.1 innings.

Gott took the loss for Kentucky after giving up an earned run and four hits in two innings of work.

South Carolina improves to 21-5 (6-2 SEC) on the season. The Gamecocks go for the sweep Sunday at Carolina Stadium as Forrest Koumas makes his second career start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30. The game will be televised live on SportSouth.

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