USC’s record setting run in the NCAA Baseball Tournament continued Saturday night with a 7-3 win over Florida in their CWS opener. The Gamecocks have won 22 straight tournament games, 12 in a row in the World Series, six in a row at TD Ameritrade Park where they have never lost, and three in a row over the Gators in the CWS.
The Gamecocks advance to play Arkansas Monday night. The Razorbacks defeated Kent State 8-1 earlier Saturday. The winner of that game will be off until Thursday night and will need just one win to adance to the championship series.
AUDIO: USC press conference: Ray Tanner, Evan Marzilli, Michael Roth, Erik Payne [11:20]
AUDIO: Florida press conference: Kevin O’Sullivan, Preston Tucker, Josh Tobias [5:32]
Florida had beaten USC three out of four times this season going into the CWS showdown. And early on it appeared the Gators would extend their winning ways.
Preston Tucker laced a two out double over the head of leftfielder Tanner English to score two runs in the third for a 2-0 lead.
The Gamecocks had plenty of chances to score in the early innings but stranded seven runners over the first four frames.
They turned the game around with a five run fifth. The big hit came from DH Erik Payne who drove a Brian Johnson pitch deep into right centerfield for a three run triple. LB Dantzler followed with a double to centerfield to make it 4-2 and chase Johnson. Chase Vergason later plated Dantzler with a single to center.
The Gators came back to score a run off Michael Roth in the bottom of the 5th to cut the lead to 5-3. From there, Roth, Tyler Webb and Matt Price kept the Gators off the board.
The greatest threat came in the 7th. Roth gave up back to back singles and after a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out, he was lifted for Webb.
The big lefthander induced a short fly to right by Tucker which could not score the run. He intentionally walked Mike Zunino to load the bases and then got Johnson to line to Adam Matthews in right to end the inning.
The Gamecocks added two runs in the 9th without getting the ball out of the infield.
Christian Walker led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on another wild pitch. After Payne struck out, Dantzler reached on an error by the pitcher, went to third on an infield single to short by English, and scored on a throwing error by the first baseman.
Price set the Gators down in the 8th with help of a spectacular play by centerfielder Evan Marzilli.
Leadoff hitter Daniel Pigott drove a ball into the left centerfield gap. Marzilli broke on the ball at the crack of the bat and made a diving, head first sliding catch that brought the fans to their feet.
Price had a little drama in the 9th.
Working with a 7-3 lead, he faced runners on the corners with two outs and the power hitting Zunino at the plate. But he got the first round draft pick to hit a dribbler in front of the plate and Grayson Greiner easily threw him out at first.
AUDIO: Ray Tanner talks about Marzilli’s catch in another conversation with reporters [8:49]
Roth earned the win to improve to 8-1 this season and 3-0 lifetime against Florida. Price earned his 12th save of the season and the 42nd of his career setting a SEC record.
The Gamecocks are 46-17 while Florida falls to 47-19.