Fourth ranked South Carolina rallied from three runs down and three Gamecock relievers combined to hurl seven shutout innings of relief as Carolina defeated top ranked Florida 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium to clinch a three-game SEC baseball series. Carolina is now 18-5 and 4-2 in the SEC while the loss drops Florida to 21-4 and 4-2 in league play.
After scoring three runs in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game at 3-3, the Gamecocks went ahead for the first time in the top of the eighth inning. Adam Matthews doubled to lead off the inning off of Florida reliever Tommy Toledo and Peter Mooney was hit by a pitch to give Carolina a pair of runners with no outs. Jackie Bradley Jr. then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners and Christina Walker was intentionally walked to load the bases and set the stage for Adrian Morales. With a full count, Morales walked on a pitch from Toledo that was high and inside to give Carolina a 4-3 lead.
That was all that the Gamecocks needed as Matt Price settled in to retire the Gators in both the eighth and ninth innings to seal the victory for Carolina. Price finished the game with 2.1 scoreless innings of work, allowing just one hit and striking out one batter. He is now 2-2 on the year. Tommy Toledo suffered the loss and is now 2-2 for the season. He allowed one run on one hit in 0.2 innings of relief.
“There are a lot of battles in the SEC,” said head coach Ray Tanner. “Our guys kept competing and we fought back and were able to win a tough game on the road.”
Florida struck first with three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Brian Johnson drew a one-out walk followed by a base hit by Mike Zunino. UF would score their first run on Kamm Washington’s RBI base hit to left-center. With runners on the corners, Josh Adams set down a sacrifice squeeze bunt that scored Zunino. With two outs and Washington on second base, Zack Powers lifted a RBI single to left field that gave the Gators a three-run lead. Gamecock starting pitcher Bryan Harper lasted only two innings. He allowed three runs on three hits with one walk allowed.
Gamecock reliever Colby Holmes kept the game in check as he went three scoreless innings and allowed just one hit and three walks while striking out two batters. Florida starter Karsten Whitson was strong for the Gators in the first five innings, allowing just two hits while striking out five.
Carolina finally got to Florida and tied it at 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning. Adam Matthews walked to lead off the inning that ended the day for Whitson. With left-hander Nick Maronde on in relief, the Gamecocks added another runner as Peter Mooney drew a walk to give Carolina a pair of runners. A fly out by Jackie Bradley Jr. to deep center put runners on the corners for Christian Walker. The Gators elected to go to the pen and brought in designated hitter Austin Maddox to pitch against Walker. Walker drilled a hard hit ball up the middle that was booted by Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana allowing Matthews to score the Gamecocks’ first run of the game. With runners still on the corners and one out, Adrian Morales hit a high chopper to third base for a RBI ground out to score Mooney. With two outs and Walker on second base, Jake Williams singled up the middle scoring Walker and tying the game at three apiece.
Florida looked to regain the lead in the bottom of the sixth after loading the bases with no outs. With the bags full, Josh Adams knocked a slow roller to third that saw Adrian Morales go home for the force out. On the play and after the force out, Florida runner Brian Johnson slid into home plate and his leg caught catcher Brady Thomas at the plate, who fell down. Interference was ruled on Johnson that made Adams an automatic out and runners had to go back to first and second base. With two outs, Taylor got out of the jam with a strikeout of Zack Powers ending the Gators’ threat.
The Gamecocks won despite only five hits on the afternoon. Matthews went 2-for-4 with two runs scored although he had to leave the game in the ninth inning after a strained left hamstring. Morales finished with two RBI. Mike Zunino was 3-for-4 and Daniel Pigott had two hits to lead the Gators.
South Carolina returns home for a non-conference tilt on Wednesday vs. The Citadel. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Carolina Stadium. Carolina will be back in conference action next weekend hosting Kentucky in a three-game series. All three games will be televised on SportSouth & FSN South.