Florida scored three runs in the third and fourth innings and three Gator relievers combined to limit the Gamecocks to just one run in the final 5.2 innings as Florida defeated South Carolina 3-2 in the series opener on Thursday night in front of 8,188 fans at Carolina Stadium, the third largest crowd in school history.
USC skipper Ray Tanner breaks down game one
Florida is 39-12 and 21-7 in the SEC while the loss drops Carolina to 42-12 and 20-8 in conference play. The series resumes on Friday night with first pitch at 7 p.m. The game will be televised live on FSN.
Florida reliever Jeff Barfield improved to 4-0 on the year after working 2.2 innings. He allowed one run on two hits and struck out four batters. South Carolina starter Blake Cooper suffered his first loss of the season and is now 10-1 on the year. He allowed three runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings with three strikeouts and one walk.
Blake Cooper talks about his first loss of the season
Tyler Thompson gave the Gators a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. On a 1-2 pitch, Thomson drove a shot to right center for his second home run of the season. The Gators added one more run in the frame to go ahead 2-0 as Daniel Pigott doubled with two outs and scored on Preston Tucker’s RBI base hit up the middle.
Florida added a single run in the top of the fourth to extend the advantage to 3-0. Matt den Dekker reached base with a single followed by Brian Johnson’s double to right field. Josh Adams drove in den Dekker with a RBI ground out.
South Carolina answered in the bottom of the fourth with a single run and knocked Florida starter Alex Panteliodis from the game. Adam Matthews reached base with one out on a bunt single followed by a base hit by Kyle Enders. The Gamecocks’ third straight hit would come from Bobby Haney, who laced a RBI single to right field scoring Matthews and bringing the Gamecocks to within two runs at 3-1. Florida was able to escape a bases loaded jam with one out though as Barfield came on and struck out Whit Merrifield and Jackie Bradley Jr. to end the Carolina threat.
The Gamecocks inched closer in the bottom of the fifth as Jeffery Jones connected with a pinch hit solo homer. Jones roped a 1-1 pitch from Barfield for his eighth home run of the year cutting Carolina’s deficit to one run. That would be it for Carolina though as the Gators kept the Gamecocks off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Jeffery Jones postgame comments
Merrifield got one last crack in the bottom of the ninth and got the barrel on a fastball from Florida reliever Kevin Chapman but the ball sailed just foul down the right field line, almost sending the packed house at Carolina Stadium into a frenzy.
Whit Merrifield postgame comments
Chapman had two innings of relief to pick up his ninth save of the year. He struck out two, walked one and did not allow a hit. Each team tallied nine hits. Daniel Pigott led Florida with a 3-for-5 day at the plate. Preston Tucker also had two hits. Adam Matthews was 2-for-3 with a run scored for the Gamecocks.