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By Nick Gray | @KyKernelGray
UK baseball lost its sixth game in eight games Tuesday in a 12-5 loss to Louisville. Now, the Cats will try to curb their skid in a three-game series at No. 14 South Carolina.
The loss against the Cardinals followed consecutive losses to Tennessee, which marked No. 17 UK’s second SEC series loss in as many weeks.
The Cats (24-12, 7-8 SEC) will send sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Reed (2-4, 3.02 ERA) to the mound Friday, senior left-handed pitcher Jerad Grundy (5-4, 4.18 ERA) Saturday and junior left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell (4-2, 3.16 ERA) Sunday.
The Gamecocks (28-10, 8-7 SEC) will counter with senior left-handed pitcher Nolan Belcher (5-3, 1.63 ERA) Friday and sophomore left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery (3-0, 0.69 ERA) Saturday. South Carolina’s starting pitcher for Sunday’s game has yet to be announced.
The Gamecocks are coming off a mid-week win against the College of Charleston and a weekend sweep of Florida at Gainesville, whom the Cats took two of three games from to open conference play.
Senior infielder L.D. Dantzler leads South Carolina in RBIs with 38, runs scored with 28 and home runs with 10 (third in the SEC).
Dantzler has hit a team-leading nine doubles.
Sophomore infielder Connor Bright leads the Gamecocks in hitting with a .330 batting average.
Sophomore infielder Joey Pankake has 40 hits, the team lead, and has added seven home runs and 28 RBIs for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks lead the SEC in home runs with 35 and rank second in the conference in walks at 184.
UK’s pitching staff has allowed 90 walks, the fewest in the conference.
South Carolina’s bullpen is led by senior left-handed pitcher Tyler Webb. Webb is tied for the SEC lead in saves with 11 and sports a 0.75 ERA.
The Cats are led offensively by Reed, who holds the team-high for hits (44), home runs (9) and RBIs (40).
Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett leads the Cats in batting average with .338.
UK’s bullpen is led by senior right-handed pitcher Walter Wijas, junior right-handed pitcher Trevor Gott and freshman right-handed pitcher Zack Strecker, all of whom have ERAs below 1.00.
Last year during the SEC’s opening weekend of conference play, the Cats swept then-No.2 South Carolina at Cliff Hagan Stadium to extend their school-record winning streak to 21.
But UK has not won in Columbia since 1999, and not once at Carolina Stadium, the site of this weekend’s series and the home of the Gamecocks since 2009.
The first game will start Friday at 7 p.m. The series will continue Saturday at 3 p.m. and conclude Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Saturday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports South.