Late home run sinks Kentucky in series opener

(Ryan Johnson - The University of Kentucky baseball team defeats Eastern Kentucky University 16-5 on Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington, Ky. - Photo By Barry Westerman | UK Athletics)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina got a leadoff home run from Andrew Eyster in the seventh inning to score a 5-4 comeback victory over Kentucky in the opener of a critical three-game series at Founders Park.

With five games remaining in conference play the Cats and Gamecocks are deadlocked in the race for the final SEC Tournament berth at six wins. Alabama also has six league wins with Friday night’s result against Texas A&M pending.

Kentucky (24-25, 6-19) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning by manufacturing a run after Ryan Johnson’s double to open the game and later erased a 3-1 deficit with a three-run fifth inning rally. In the two-out uprising, Elliott Curtis drew a walk and Coltyn Kessler was hit by a pitch. After a wild pitch moved both runners up a base, Ryan Shinn ripped a single past third base to score a pair of runs and went to second on the throw home, which allowed him to score on T.J. Collett’s single to right field.

The Gamecocks tied the game in the sixth after a leadoff walk came around to score before Eyster hit the game-winning home run into the left field bleachers to open the seventh inning. Although UK hit a pair of balls hard in the ninth it did not put a runner on base after falling behind.

With rain expected to hit Columbia later in the afternoon, Saturday’s game was moved up an hour and will begin at 11 a.m. ET. It will remain a live broadcast on the SEC Network.