Cats take series from No. 1 Gamecocks

Kentucky coach Gary Henderson says he's never had a pitching staff that did not have a save to its credit with the end of March in sight. He does now. And it was worth the wait.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky coach Gary Henderson says he's never had a pitching staff that did not have a save to its credit with the end of March in sight.

He does now. And it was worth the wait.

The Wildcats' bullpen picked the best possible moment to break through on Saturday, slamming the door on South Carolina threats in the eighth and ninth innings to give UK a 2-1 victory over the No. 1 Gamecocks and clinch the series after winning 13-5 on Friday.

After junior right-hander Chandler Shepherd (5-0) allowed only one run on six hits through 7.1 innings, Kyle Cody recorded the last two outs of the eighth inning and the first of the ninth. He gave way to Spencer Jack, who came up with a huge strikeout of South Carolina leadoff man Marcus Mooney with one out and a runner on third.

Henderson then worked the lefty-lefty matchup, calling on freshman Logan Salow to retire the Gamecocks' Max Schrock on a game-ending ground ball to second and pick up the club's first save.

"I told the kids I don't think I have been involved with a team that it took 23 games until getting their first save," Henderson said. "That's our first save of the year, and some of that is of course that we have swung the bat well and had some good leads and haven't had save situations. We had a couple early (save opportunities) that we didn't convert, but that's our first save of the year. Really impressed.

"(We) had to get Kyle Cody back. He's been gone for three weeks. It's only 12 pitches, but it's a big 12 pitches. Then Spencer Jack to come in, and do that, really showing up, was big. Spencer went right-on-right with the go-ahead run at the plate, which I was really pleased with. And to put a freshman (Salow) in that situation with the game on the line and the hitter as good as Schrock late, it's fantastic for him to come through."

Cody had not pitched since March 1 due to tightness in his right forearm. He was in a starting role then, but could be a big key to UK's bullpen with Andrew Newson (1-0, 1.99 ERA) pitching so well in the third weekend starting role now.

Kentucky (17-6, 3-2 SEC) bounced back strong after dropping two out of three games in hard-luck fashion last weekend at Alabama to open the SEC schedule.

"I think it's a testament that we have a good club and they like to show up and play," Henderson said. "... It makes me proud of them and makes me think that we've got some toughness."

The Wildcats will go for the sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, and if they pull it off, it will mark the first time since 1991 against LSU that UK has swept a No. 1 ranked opponent.

It was UK's third win over a No. 1 this season. The Cats opened the year with an 8-3 win over then top-ranked Virginia.

Pitching was in the spotlight Saturday, but senior catcher Micheal Thomas, the SEC's leading hitter at .425 this season, continued to shine for the UK offense. He belted his fifth home run of the season off South Carolina starter Jack Wynkoop (4-1) in the second inning to give the Cats a 1-0 lead.

Kentucky added a run against Wynkoop in the third inning on Max Kuhn's two-out RBI single, but the Gamecock starter was almost as strong as Shepherd on the day, allowing just two runs on five hits while striking out nine.

South Carolina (18-3, 2-3 SEC) got a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning from catcher Grayson Greiner to account for its lone run.

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