Kentucky Series Preview
Who: South Carolina (24-23, 10-14) vs. Kentucky (26-21, 9-15). Founders Park
Time/TV: Friday 7:00 pm , Saturday 12:00 pm, Sunday 1:30 pm EST. Friday and Sunday games will stream on SEC Network+. Saturday's game will broadcast on SEC Network.
Line: SC -120, UK -110, O/U 9.5
Starting Pitchers: Game 1 RHP Jr. Brett Thomas (0-1 6.75 ERA, 15Ks, 11 BB, .317 OBA) v. RHP Soph. Austin Strickland (2-2, 7.13 ERA, 25Ks, 8 BB, .300 OBA), Game 2, RHP Jr. Noah Hall (2-4, 4.93 ERA, 66Ks, 26 BB, .267 OBA) v. RHP Gr. Sean Harney (5-3, 2.68 ERA, 51Ks, 14 BB, .229 OBA), Game 3, Soph. RHP Will Sanders (7-2, 3.87 ERA, 74Ks, 25 BB, .256 OBA) v. TBA
History: South Carolina leads 57-42. The Gamecocks had some very good teams stumble into Lexington and lose a series. Last year Carolina rolled into Lexington and swept the Cats in a 3-game series for first time on the road since 2000. Andrew Eyster was named Co-SEC Player of the Week after the 2021 sweep. Kentucky's last series win over Carolina in Columbia was in 2017.
If you've been following along with us on this site and in the Insiders Forum you know at that this point we think Hoover is Carolina's only path to the postseason, however, the Cocks are not a lock to qualify. They are currently in 3-way tie for 9th with Alabama and Ole Miss. By virtue of Carolina's series victories over both teams, the Gamecocks would currently be the 9th seed in the SEC Tournament. Kentucky is currently tied for 12th with defending NATIONAL CHAMPION Mississippi State. That should tell you how good the SEC is on a yearly basis. The Bulldogs won the whole thing last year and this year they are fighting to make the SEC Tournament. Winning 3 more SEC games would make Carolina a lock for Hoover.
Scouting the Wildcats
Much like Carolina, Kentucky has struggled on the road this season. (6-11 overall and 0-4 in SEC series). The Wildcats have only been swept once on the road this season, back on the first weekend of league play in Fayetteville. Kentucky enters the weekend hitting .245 in conference play with only 22 home runs. The Wildcats are efficient on the base paths successfully stealing 33 bags in 35 attempts. This could be something to watch if Colin Burgess is sidelined this weekend.
Kentucky does not have a hitter over .300 in league play. John Thrasher leads UK with a .297 league average. The Cats' long ball leader in SEC play is Jacob Plastiak with 6, however he is only hitting .192. The Wildcats best professional prospect is shortstop Ryan Ritter. The Junior is only at .267 in league play. From an offensive standpoint, look for Kentucky to try to manufacture some runs this weekend to make up their lack of power.
Carolina does not want to get into the 8th behind or tied this weekend as Kentucky has perhaps the best closer in the league in reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week Tyler Guilfoil. The 6'4 Junior baffled Tennessee last weekend pitching 6 innings of scoreless baseball while allowing only 1 hit in Kentucky's 13 inning series clinching win. Guilfoil has been great all year with a SEC ERA of 1.01 with 43 strikeouts and only 8 walks. Another Junior, Daniel Harper, has also been great out of the Kentucky bullpen. The Wildcat bullpen is not particularly deep, but their front end guys are fantastic.
One Guy's Prediction:
The way this season has gone would it surprise anyone if South Carolina swept Kentucky this weekend? We are not ready to call a sweep, but we do think the Gamecocks take 2 of 3.
In other Spring sports action this weekend, the Men's Tennis team will travel to Charlottesville for a Sweet 16 matchup with #7 Virginia. That match begins at 3:00 pm today. The Men's Golf team begins NCAA play in the Norman, Oklahoma Regional on May 16. The Girl's team begins the Championship Round next Friday May 20th.