Koumas Superb, Gamecocks Sweep 'Cats

Forrest Koumas improved to 3-0, Peter Mooney was 3-for-3 with two runs, and Christian Walker drove in two as South Carolina defeated Kentucky, 4-1, to sweep the series and remain in a three-way tie with Vanderbilt and Florida for first place in the SEC East at 7-2. The Gamecocks are 22-5 overall.

Forrest Koumas had an outstanding performance in Sunday's match-up with the Kentucky Wildcats. Koumas pitched a career-high 6.1 innings and limited a team that is in the top half of the SEC in nearly every offensive category to just two hits and no runs in a 4-1 victory that gave Carolina a sweep of the 'Cats. Koumas faced 25 batters, throwing 73 pitches and striking out three against one walk and three hit batters. He allowed one runner on base in six of the seven innings he pitched in, but was able to get out of each inning without allowing a runner to touch home plate.

"Very happy about being able to win all three games this weekend," head coach Ray Tanner said. "It doesn't happen much in this conference. We continue to do a pretty good job on the mound to keep our team in a position to win the game. I can't say enough about what our pitching staff has done, had some timely hits, but our pitching has been big for us."

Koumas now has a stretch of three consecutive SEC games in which he has thrown well. After Adam Westmoreland failed to get out of the second inning in Sunday's rubber game against Georgia, Koumas came in and threw 3.1 innings and gave up just one earned run to pick up the win. With Neff out with a sore arm last weekend against Florida, Koumas got the start on Saturday. Though the Gamecocks lost the game, Koumas 6 inning and gave up only one unearned run in a no-decision. In three SEC games, Koumas has only given up one earned run in 15.2 innings pitched.

"I felt good before the game - I feel great now," Koumas said. "I thought everything was there. I felt like my velocity was down a little bit, but I blame that on not being able to get my arm up."

The reason why Koumas might have struggled a little with his velocity is understandable after he spent most of this week in a Columbia hospital battling a food allergy.

"I was impressed with his outing," Tanner said. "I know that he's young and anxious and he was going to tell me he could go. I got a little bit more than I thought he could give. He spent three days in the hospital. He probably felt like he could have stayed longer - certainly based on the way he was pitching. I just didn't think there could be a lot more in the tank."

"It felt different but it wasn't anything I couldn't overcome," Koumas said. "You miss a couple of days, get back out there as soon as you can and get after it."

The Sunday starting position has been up in the air for most of the season. Koumas, Westmoreland, Tyler Webb, and Colby Holmes have all vied for the spot. With Koumas' last three outings, it'll be hard to go with anyone else on Sunday's.

"I didn't think this is where we'd be because of (Steven)Neff, Webb, and Westmoreland," Tanner said. "I just didn't think we'd be a situation where he'd get these opportunities. Our rotation has been unsettled to say the least and we've had some guys that have done a good job for us. We're hoping that we can get everybody healthy and it will be more competitive."

The Gamecocks didn't take long to get on the board, scoring a pair of runs in the first. Peter Mooney - who was 3-for-3 with two runs scored - led off with a single, Scott Wingo laid down a nice bunt for a single, and Jackie Bradley Jr. was hit by a pitch to load the bases right off the bat. Christian Walker came through with a hard hit RBI single - his first of two RBI's - into left to score Mooney. Morales hit into a 4-6-3 double play, but Wingo would score on the play. Rogers got out of the inning with a strike out of Jake Williams to limit the damage to just two runs.

From there, Kentucky starter Taylor Rogers settled down. After giving up the three hits in the first inning, Rogers gave up only three over the next 5.1 and one unearned run and four strikeouts.

Koumas' day ended in the seventh inning after a leadoff walk and inducing a pop-up to third. John Taylor came on in relief, giving up a single to Michael Williams and hitting Lucas Witt to load the bases with two outs. Taylor got a fly ball to center to end the inning and keeping Koumas from giving up an earned run.

"I felt like my stamina was there," Koumas said. "I actually felt like I was throwing harder when I came out than when I started. I think I had a little more."

Carolina added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. After Patrick Harrington struck out to begin the inning, Mooney singled through the right side. Wingo hit a hard grounder to first, but Luke Maile tried to throw Mooney out at second and the ball bounced out of Taylor Black's glove and went into left. Mooney was thrown out a third, but was tripped by Black and awarded third by interference. After intentionally walking Bradley Jr, Walker grounded into a fielder's choice at third. Walker beat out the attempted double play and Mooney scored his second run of the game to give the Gamecocks a 3-1 lead.

Kentucky tried to rally back off Taylor in the eighth. After Black struck out to begin the inning, Braden Kapteyn was hit by a pitch. Taylor struck out Mike Kaczmarek, but back-to-back singles by J.T. Riddle and Luke Maile scored Kapteyn. Williams walked to load the bases, but pinch hitter Thomas McCarthy struck out to end the threat as the Wildcats left the bases loaded.

Carolina quickly got the run back in their half of the eighth. Jake Williams grounded to third, but M. Williams' throw to first was high and J. Williams was safe on the error. After Robert Beary laid down a sacrifice bunt, Evan Marzilli laced a single up the middle to score Williams and give the Gamecocks a 4-1 lead. Marzilli was thrown out trying to advance to second on the play.

Kentucky loaded the bases again in the ninth, but Bryan Harper struck out Riddle to end the game and earn his first save of his Gamecock career. The Wildcats left the bases loaded in the last three innings and left 14 men on base.

Carolina hosts USC-Upstate Tuesday before heading to Knoxville to take on Tennessee next weekend. Patrick Sullivan will get the start on Tuesday.


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