LEXINGTON, Ky. - The unofficial SEC Survival Guide says you hold serve at home and don't get swept on the road.
By that measure, No. 1 South Carolina's 8-3 win Sunday over Kentucky at Cliff Hagan Stadium made for a successful weekend, though it certainly didn't feel like one to a team unaccustomed to losing, much less losing twice in a row.
Behind a strong outing from freshman right-hander Wil Crowe and a 3-run home run from Joey Pankake that put the game out of reach, the Gamecocks got what they needed and evened their SEC record at 3-3, 19-3 overall.
"To lose two in a row, we're not used to that here," said Pankake, who went 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs, all of which came on a 3-run home run in the ninth that put the game out of reach.
"Especially three in a row, that would have been big to have gotten swept. We're glad we didn't get swept and pulled one out in Kentucky, the first one I've won here. After getting beat like we did Friday and losing a close one yesterday, I felt real good about the way we played today and the energy we had in the dugout and on the field."
Wil Crowe (W, 5-0) earned the victory behind six strong innings in which he allowed four hits and three runs. More impressive than those numbers, however, was the fact he faced the minimum number of batters (14) through 4.1 innings, which allowed the Gamecocks to take a 1-0 lead and keep the nation's leading run-scoring team in check.
"I just wanted to throw strikes, help the team win and put them in a good spot," said Crowe, who said his approach was to "battle."
"They put some good swings on the ball, every one of the had a good approach and I just wanted to throw my pitches for strikes or try to."
The win was the first in the Bluegrass State for the Gamecocks since a 13-9 win over in May 2010. South Carolina hasn't won a series in Kentucky since 2009.
"It was a big game for us, a big win," Holbrook said. "Obviously it was important for us to try and get a game up here. We pitched well, we played good defense and Wil got us off to a good start.
South Carolina also accomplished another goal in the SEC survival guide - win on Sunday.
"We try to pride ourselves on winning on Sundays," Holbrook said. "If you're going to have a great year you have to win on Sundays, and we salvaged one. We'll take it, we'll try to get on the bus and regroup and try to take one next week."
The Gamecocks got a run across in the second on a leadoff single from Connor Bright, a walk to Taylor Widener and a sacrifice bunt from DC Arendas that got Bright to third and sac fly from Tanner English that scored Bright. In the fifth, Arendas made it 2-0 Gamecocks with a solo home run to right field.
Kentucky added a run in the fifth to make it 2-1, but South Carolina broke through for three runs in the sixth to give the Gamecocks a four-run lead, and after Kentucky clawed back with two more runs to chase Crowe and make it 5-3 going into the ninth, but Pankake's three-run shot off the scoreboard in left put the nail in the coffin as Cody Mincey and Joel Seddon held UK scoreless over the final three innings. Seddon earned his seventh save of the year.
"I got that one pretty good," Pankake said of the homer, his fourth of the year, tying Max Schrock for the team lead in that category. "That felt really good, and it felt even better to get three runs, get a little cushion going into the last inning.
"We weren't comfortable with two runs, we knew we needed to push some more across and that swing of the bat really helped us out a lot."
"Joey had a big swing of the bat," Holbrook said. "That kind of let everybody take a deep breath. We had to fight like crazy to try and win this one, and Joey kind of put the exclamation point on the win for us."