HOOVER, Ala. – TJ Hopkins hit a pinch hit, three-run home run in the seventh inning to give South Carolina a 3-1 victory over No. 8 Kentucky, eliminating the Wildcats from the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday.
The Wildcats (39-20) return to Lexington after a 10-day road trip through Florida and Alabama and will await the NCAA Tournament draw on Monday. UK is expected to host a regional as one of the nation’s top 16 seeds and is still in the discussion for one of the eight national seeds that would maintain home field through the Super Regionals.
Sophomore right-hander Justin Lewis took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and did not allow a run in his 5.1 innings of work but the UK offense couldn’t find the timely hits it needed to stave off the Gamecocks. The Cats got a run in the first inning but ultimately left nine runners on base and went 2-for-16 with runners on base, including 0-for-9 with them in scoring position. They also had a pair of runners picked off.
South Carolina managed just two hits on the day but used a walk and an error to put two men on in the seventh for Hopkins, who pinch hit for catcher Hunter Taylor. The sophomore outfielder took a pitch from senior lefty Logan Salow and pulled it over the left-field wall for his fifth home run of the season.
Top 1st – Tristan Pompey singled to RCF. Evan White reached a fielding error by the RF, moving Pompey to second. Zach Reks sacrificed both runners over. Luke Becker drove in Pompey with an RBI groundout. UK 1, USC 0.
Bottom 7th – Alex Destino walked. Jacob Olson reached on a throwing error. TJ Hopkins hit a pinch hit home run to LF. USC 3, UK 1.
- The Cats are now 22-34 all-time in the SEC Tournament.
- Sophomore RHP Justin Lewis had a sensational outing for the Cats.
o Lewis finished 5.1 innings, giving up just one hit, walking only one and striking out six.
o Lewis had three 1-2-3 innings and retired eight in a row at one point.
o It was Lewis’ second scoreless outing of the season, joining the 7.0 innings he tossed vs. Delaware in his second start of the season on Feb. 26.
- Sophomore OF Tristan Pompey went 1-for-4 with a run and a walk.
o He extended his reached base safely streak to 30 straight games.
o Pompey now has hit safely in 43 of his past 48 games.
- Senior OF Zach Reks went 1-for-3.
o Reks has reached base safely in 28 of the last 29 games.
- Sophomore C/DH Kole Cottam went 1-for-3 with a single.
o Cottam is 11-for-22 in the last six games, including five extra-base hits.
o Cottam is riding a six-game hitting streak, tying his career long.
- Senior SS Connor Heady had two walks.
o Heady has reached base in seven of 10 plate appearances during the SEC Tournament, including four hits and three walks.
Kentucky will return home and await the NCAA Tournament draw. The Cats are expected to host a regional next weekend at Cliff Hagan Stadium.