Gamecocks advance to SEC semis on Hopkins’ pinch-hit HR | Sports


TJ Hopkins’ pinch-hit three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning helped lift South Carolina to a 3-1 win over Kentucky to advance the Gamecocks to the semifinals of the SEC Baseball Tournament.

The Gamecocks, who lost to the Wildcats 7-2 in the second game of the conference tournament on Wednesday, will face second-seed LSU on Saturday in their first semifinal appearance since 2007.

Trailing 1-0 entering the seventh inning, the Gamecocks (35-24) mounted a rally as Alex Destino got things started with a leadoff walk against Kentucky reliever Logan Salow. After a sacrifice bunt by Jonah Bride moved pinch runner Christian Flint into scoring position, South Carolina caught a break as Jacob Olson reached base on a fielding error by Kentucky third baseman Luke Becker.

With runners on first and second, head coach Chad Holbrook called on Hopkins, who lifted a 2-0 pitch from Salow over the wall in left field for his fifth home run of the season to give South Carolina a 3-1 lead.

The Wildcats (39-20) threatened in both the eighth and ninth innings, but the Gamecock bullpen held them off. With two outs and runners on second and third base in the eighth inning, senior RHP Reed Scott induced a groundout by T.J. Collett to maintain the two-run advantage.

In the top of the ninth with a runner on first and one out, Tyler Johnson closed out the game as he struck out Connor Heady and got the final out on a grounder to Matt Williams off the bat of Tristan Pompey to seal the victory.

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Senior left-hander Josh Reagan earned the win in relief. He is now 6-2 for the season. He pitched 1⅔ scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Johnson earned his 10th save of the season.

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