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March 22, 2014

Diamond Extra: Kentucky Game 1

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Coach Chad Holbrook has preached pitching and defense as key to his team's 18-2 start to the regular season.

On Friday, both were in short supply in No. 1 South Carolina's 13-5 loss to Kentucky that evened the Gamecocks' SEC record at 2-2.

The Gamecocks committed a season-high four errors, double the most they'd had previously (2, four times).

Not only did the defense uncharacteristically let South Carolina down, the bullpen's scoreless streak was halted at 62 innings when Taylor Widener allowed an unearned run in the third. After two strikeouts to begin the inning, Austin Cousino extended his SEC-leading hitting streak to 17 with a single to left. He stole second, then stole third, and when the throw from Grayson Grenier came to Joey Pankake at third, Pankake couldn't handle it and it bounced into left field, allowing Cousino to score with ease.

"We didn't play the way we're capable of playing," Pankake said. "That's not the way we play baseball. That's not how we're supposed to play here at South Carolina."

The Wildcats added three more runs, all earned, against Matthew Vogel in the fifth. It was Vogel's four runs allowed against Bucknell in the first game of the season that started the streak from there.

Kentucky turned two double plays, while the Gamecocks turned none.

"This game's very simple," Holbrook said. "You've got to pitch and play 'D', and today we didn't do either.

"As a group we didn't do enough defensively or on the mound early in the game and it got us."

NO RESPECT: Kentucky must not have heard about Greiner's proclivity for throwing out runners, because the Wildcats were just that - wild - on the basepaths.

They also were wildly successful. UK stole five bases without a single runner getting thrown out as Greiner had a rough day at the plate defensively.

MOVING RUNNERS: While the Gamecocks were only outhit 14-10, the run disparity was significant. Part of that had to do with the fact that USC hit just .176 with runners on base (3-17) and .222 with runners in scoring position.

Conversely, Kentucky hit .389 with runners on base (7-of-18) and .417 (5-of-12) with runners in scoring position.

TWO THE HARD WAY: For the second week in a row, USC dropped the opening game of an SEC weekend series. Against Ole Miss, the Gamecocks swept a Saturday doubleheader to claim the series. It will have to win the next two games, one Saturday at 2 p.m. and the next Sunday at 1 p.m., to avoid losing the series.

"We bounced back last weekend," Pankake said. "I still think we're a tough team, we just weren't here today the way we can be."

Holbrook said he's confident his team can respond as he hopes.

"I have an older group," Holbrook said. "I think they understand. It's just baseball in this league.

"When you don't have a good outing on the mound you're going to get thumped. We got thumped."

PANKAKES AND SYRUP: National Waffle Day isn't until March 25, but Joey Pankake got his juices flowing early with just his second home run of the year in the sixth inning, a blast to left field off UK starter A.J. Reed.

Reed threw eight innings, allowing just three earned runs while throwing 118 pitches. At the plate, Reed was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

"I felt like we hit a few balls hard," Pankake said. "(Reed) was really good. He threw to both sides of the plate, he mixed it up really well. He's a great pitcher and a good hitter, too."

MAX PAIN: Second baseman Max Schrock aggravated his sprained ankle on a ball in the fifth inning where he charged to his right and hoped to throw the runner out but had no chance to make the play. DC Arendas came in as a defensive replacement the following inning.

"We probably put Max in there a day or two too early," Holbrook said. Schrock started Friday's game in the field after sitting out last week and only pinch-hitting Saturday against the Rebels. "He looked a little bit fresher to me in BP before the game, but BP's different than a game.

"That was a mistake on my part putting him in there. He keeps getting better, and we've got to have his bat in there. If he's not any better tomorrow, if he is where he was today, we'll DH him and get some fresh legs out there, some healthy (guys) who can make a play or two."

Arendas singled in his only plate appearance in the top of the eighth inning, coming around to score on an error by the Kentucky second baseman.

Alabama 17, Arkansas 9
Auburn 3, Tennessee 2
Florida 5, Texas A&M 3
LSU 4, Georgia 0
Kentucky13, South Carolina 5
Ole Miss 4, Missouri 3
Miss. State 17, Vanderbilt 2

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