By Matt May
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Needing a series win to keep pace in the conference title race, No. 9 Kentucky rode another offensive onslaught to a 10-5 victory over South Carolina on Sunday at Cliff Hagan Stadium, capturing the three-game series.
The Wildcats (22-10, 5-7 SEC) got back-to-back home runs from Tristan Pompey and Troy Squires to lead off the game, again from Luke Heyer and Luke Becker in the sixth inning and enough pitching and timely defense to fend off the pesky Gamecocks. All nine UK starters reached base safely and eight collected a hit as the offense scored double-digit runs in each of the Cats’ win.
Becker, who was celebrating his 22nd birthday, extended his reached base safely streak to all 32 games this season while going 2-for-2 with a home run, three walks and two runs scored. Pompey had three hits, including his fourth career leadoff home run, while Squires homered for the second time on a weekend that also saw him get his 100th career hit.
Even with the offensive production the Cats need a third straight dependable effort from junior right-handed starter Justin Lewis, who had won earned wins each of the past two Sundays. He fought his command at times but grabbed his sixth win of the season while allowing just three runs in 5.1 innings. Sophomore closer Chris Machamer slammed the door on the Gamecocks over the final 2.1 scoreless innings, including getting the Cats out of a jam in the seventh when he entered with the tying run on deck.
In between those pitching performances was one of the Cats’ most important – and most jaw-dropping – defensive plays of the season. With the Cats clinging to a 5-3 lead and runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth, junior shortstop Trey Dawson dove to his left to snare a one-hop rocket, collected himself and fire a bullet to first where junior Kole Cottam scooped the short-hop to nail the runner and end the threat without the tying run scoring.
Having gone 3-1 at home in a crucial week against No. 21 Louisville and South Carolina the Cats hit the road this week with a Wednesday game at Western Carolina and a three-game series at No. 16 Georgia next weekend.
Bottom 1st – Tristan Pompey homered to RF. Troy Squires homered to RF. UK 2, SCAR 0.
Top 3rd – Carlos Cortes homered to RF. UK 2, SCAR 1.
Top 4th – Matt Williams reached on a fielding error by the first baseman. Riley Hogan walked. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Hunter Taylor grounded out to 1B, scoring Williams. UK 2, SCAR 2.
Bottom 4th – Ben Aklinski walked and Alex Rodriguez was hit by a pitch. Trey
Dawson SAC bunt moved both runners up. Aklinski scored on a wild pitch with Rodriguez moving to third. Pompey singled up the middle, scoring Rodriguez. Pompey moved to second on SAC bunt by Squires and to third on passed ball. Pompey scored on wild pitch. UK 5, SCAR 2.
Top 6th – Jonah Bride reached on an infield single and moved to third on Hogan’s double off the RF wall. Taylor walked to load the bases. Jacob Olson grounded out to SS, scoring Bride. UK 5, SCAR 3.
Bottom 6th – Dawson singled to RF and Pompey singled up the middle. Dawson advanced to third on Squires’ fielder’s choice. Luke Heyer homered to LF, scoring Dawson and Squires. Luke Becker homered to LCF. UK 9, SCAR 3.
Top 7th – Justin Rowe walked and Bride was hit by a pitch. Williams singled to CF, scoring Rowe. Hogan singled through the right side, scoring Bride. UK 9, SCAR 5.
Bottom 8th – Becker reached on an infield single and moved to third on Kole Cottam’s double to RF. Aklinski hit a SAC fly to LF, scoring Becker. UK 10, SCAR 5.
The UK offense …
Has homered in 28 of 32 games this season.
Has 21 innings this season scoring at least four runs.
Tristan Pompey and Troy Squires hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning, the first time UK has done that since Riley Mahan and Squires did so vs. Tennessee on May 12, 2017.
Luke Heyer and Luke Becker then went back-to-back in the sixth inning.
All nine starters reached base safely and eight had hits.
Several Cats extended impressive reached base safely streaks…
Junior OF Tristan Pompey has reached in 61 of the past 64 games.
Senior INF Luke Becker has reached in all 32 games.
Senior C/1B Troy Squires has reached in 31 of 32 games this season.
Junior OF Ben Aklinski has reached in 26 of the last 27 games.
Senior C/1B Troy Squires went 1-for-4 with a solo HR and two runs scored.
His sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning gave him 29 for his career, which moves him into sole possession of second place on UK’s all-time career list. He is 11 behind Ryan Wilkes (2005-08).
Clubbed his fourth home run of the season and second of the series, a solo shot in the first inning that followed Tristan Pompey’s leadoff blast.
Junior OF Tristan Pompey went 3-for-5 with two runs, two RBI and a HR.
Recorded his second three-hit game of the weekend.
Now has four career leadoff home runs.
Has nine multi-hit games this season and 43 for his career.
Has six multi-RBI games this season and 26 for his career.
Senior INF Luke Becker went 2-for-2 with two runs, a home run and three walks.
It was Becker’s birthday, making him the first UK player to homer on his birthday since Austin Cousino in 2012.
Becker has reached in all 32 games this season.
Becker has 10 multi-hit games this season and 37 for his career.
Senior INF/OF Luke Heyer went 2-for-4 with a run, three RBI and a HR.
Heyer now has a team and SEC-high 13 home runs this season.
He has 13 multi-hit games this season and 17 for his career.
He has a team-high 11 multi-RBI games this season and 14 for his career.