South Carolina suffered a blowout loss to UNC on Tuesday to drop their record to 17-12 (4-5 SEC). The Gamecocks will stay on the road this weekend as they face Kentucky at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Gamecocks have historically had the upper hand against Kentucky, with a 51-39 lead in the overall series, but the Wildcats have won the season series three of the last four years and Carolina hasn’t won a series in Lexington since 2009.
At only three weekends in, it’s early enough in the SEC season that most of the conference is bunched together in the standings. However a couple of teams have started to stand out, notably Florida and Georgia, the latter of which was absolutely not expected to be atop the standings for any significant amount of time this season. Meanwhile, South Carolina is in 5th in the SEC East, while Kentucky is last in the division.
|SEC East||SEC West|
|SEC East||SEC West|
|Florida (7-2, .778)||Ole Miss (6-3, .667)|
|Georgia (7-2, .778)||Arkansas (5-4, .556)|
|Missouri (5-4, .556)||LSU (5-4, .556)|
|Vanderbilt (5-4, .556)||Auburn (4-5, .444)|
|South Carolina (4-5, .444)||Alabama (3-6, .333)|
|Tennessee (4-5, .444)||Texas A&M (3-6, .333)|
|Kentucky (3-6, .333)||Mississippi State (2-7, .222)|
The Wildcats are 20-9 (3-6 SEC) and are a top ten team in several polls despite their struggles in the early part of the SEC schedule. Kentucky had a hot start to the season, but began conference play by getting swept by a top ten Arkansas team. The Wildcats seemed to be getting back on track with a series win against Auburn the next week, but dropped last weekend’s series to Alabama to fall to last place in the SEC East.
Despite the lackluster conference record, this Kentucky team will be a tough matchup for the Gamecocks. The Wildcats have one of the best offenses in the SEC and lead the conference in several statistical categories. South Carolina will need a clean weekend by the pitching staff, hopefully with less walks issued than usual, in order to keep Kentucky in check. Opponents are hitting just .220 against the Gamecocks, which is tied for the best opposing batting average in the SEC, but if the pitchers make mistakes then Kentucky is a team that will be able to take advantage of it. Their offense is led by Luke Heyer (.371/.451/.781), who has 11 homers, and Kole Cottam (.355/.459/.727), who leads the team with 12 homers. The Kentucky lineup is dangerous all the way through though, as the Wildcats have eight regular starters hitting above .300. That kind of hitting will be hard for Carolina to keep up with since the Gamecocks currently only have two uninjured regular starters hitting above .300. Kentucky is one of the weaker teams in the SEC on the mound, but the Gamecocks will need players throughout the lineup to step up and have a good weekend at the plate to have a chance to walk away with a series victory.
USC vs Kentucky Stats
With Adam Hill (3.58 ERA, 53 SO, 16 BB) back from his injury the Gamecocks are officially back on their usual rotation and will start the junior RHP in his usual Friday night spot. Kentucky will start junior RHP Sean Hjelle (3.32 ERA, 42 SO, 9 BB) in the series opener.
On Saturday sophomore RHP Cody Morris (4.46 ERA, 36 SO, 14 BB) will take the mound for the Gamecocks. The Kentucky starter will be junior right-hander Zach Haake (4.42 ERA, 20 SO, 15 BB).
The Gamecock starter for the series finale will be junior RHP Ridge Chapman (4.21 ERA, 19 SO, 19 BB). Junior RHP Justin Lewis (5.49 ERA, 52 SO, 13 BB) will take the mound for the Wildcats.
Game 1: Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, 2 p.m.
Watch: Friday’s game will be online on SEC Network Plus. Saturday’s game will be on TV on SEC Network and Sunday’s game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Listen: 107.5 The Game & The Gamecock Radio Network