Cats Go Wild on Gamecocks, 15-3

There was the feeling of a big-time, playoff atmosphere, as 5,729 South Carolina fans packed into Sarge Frye Field Friday night for an SEC showdown between the South Carolina Gamecocks (16-7, 4-3 SEC) and the Kentucky Wildcats (22-2, 5-2 SEC). Most of those fans left unhappy, though, as the hard-hitting Kentucky line-up put up 15 runs on their way to a 15-3 SEC victory.

The South Carolina Gamecocks much-anticipated SEC clash with Kentucky was over before it started. USC ace starter Mike Cisco (4-1) struggled in his worse outing of the season giving up 12 runs on 12 hits while walking two and hitting one batter. Up until this point, Cisco had been stellar on the season as USC's Friday guy. The bad performance sky-rocketed the junior righty's ERA from 2.45 to 5.25.

"Kentucky has got a great club," USC head coach Ray Tanner said. "We got two quick outs in the first inning, Cisco hits a guy, and then we can't get the third out before they end up with the two runs and then the grand slam. Give Kentucky all the credit in the world; they did a great job. Mike has been very, very good for us. Tonight wasn't his best night."

Capped off by a Chris Wade two-out grand slam, the Wildcats raced to a six-run lead in the first inning and never looked back. Kentucky also pushed across two runs in each of the third, fourth, and fifth innings before Cisco was pulled in favor of left-handed freshman Alex Burrell. The relentless Kentucky line up never stepped off the gas scoring in every inning except the seventh and ninth.

"I've had success keeping (teams) off balance all season and tonight it wasn't the case," Cisco said. "They came in here, we knew they were going to be a good hitting team, and they really hit everything I threw up there. I feel like I made some good pitches at times, and they hit, it just didn't seem like anything went the way I wanted it to tonight."

In relief for Cisco, Burrell pitched well enough allowing just two earned runs on three hits in 4.1 innings. But the damage had already been done as Kentucky starting pitcher Chris Rusin (4-1) cruised to the 12-run victory, giving up just three runs and nine hits on 8.2 innings of work. Rusin nearly completed the game himself, but gave way to reliever Brock Baber with two outs in the ninth. Baber held up his end of the deal finishing off the Gamecocks by striking out pinch hitter DeAngelo Mack.

"He's good. I mean, he's been good. He's not going to give you a whole lot. You'll get a few swings at him, but you've got to be close in that ball game in order to have a chance to win. And certainly they put up enough runs that he had a lot of cushion to play with. But he's a quality pitcher and we ended up just getting two or three runs so it's not going to be enough," Tanner said.

At the plate the Wildcats were led by Brian Spear (3-for-5, 2 RBI), Sawyer Carroll (2-for-3, 2 RBI), Chris Wade (2-for-5, 4 RBI), and Marcus Nidiffer (2-for-5, 3 RBI). Each of the Kentucky starters had a hit as the Wildcats went 16-for-42 including five home runs. The Wildcats got homers from Wade, Carroll, Cowgill, and Nidiffer (2). The hard-hitting Wildcats are now hitting .355 on the season with 37 home runs.

The usually-potent Gamecock lineup was kept quiet for most of the night. Even when the Gamecocks did hit the ball solidly early, it always seemed to be right at a Wildcat defender. Nothing seemed to go right for the Gamecocks as Justin Smoak and James Darnell deep fly balls landed harmlessly in Kentucky players' gloves at the warning track. A Whit Merrifield first-inning liner was straight at UK first baseman Spear giving him an easy unassisted double play. Merrifield was one of the lone bright spots at the plate for the Gamecocks as he and Justin Smoak were the only USC players with two hits.

The Gamecocks did not even reach second base until the fifth inning when Kyle Enders and Drew Crisp back-to-back doubles followed by a Disher base hit put the Yardcocks on the board. The Crisp hit extended his 16-game hit streak, the second longest of his career. The Gamecocks would only threaten again once as they pushed across a lone, meaningless run in the ninth.

"Well you could sit around for 30 or 45 minutes and beat yourself up, but bottom line is Kentucky did all the damage tonight. We just weren't good enough, we didn't answer, and they were. You've just got to go home and get some rest and come back tomorrow," Tanner said.

The Gamecocks will be in action again tomorrow night as they play the Wildcats again at Sarge Frye Field at 4 p.m.

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