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Friday May 25, 2007No. 7 USC Ends Baseball's SEC Tourney Run, 5-3

Hoover, AL

Sophomore right-hander Mike Cisco notched eight strikeouts over seven innings as third-seeded South Carolina (42-17) eliminated sixth-seeded Florida (29-30) from the 2007 SEC Tournament on Friday at Regions Park, 5-3. With their second win over the Gators in the past three days, the Gamecocks must defeat Arkansas (40-18) twice tomorrow to reach Sunday’s championship tilt. After Cisco (6-2) limited UF to four hits and two runs, senior Jeff Jeffords pitched the final two innings to collect his fourth save.   

 

Senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) put the Gators ahead in the first inning with a towering two-run homer deep over the left-field wall. Freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) led off the game with a single and moved into scoring position with his seventh stolen base. Sophomore Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) had his team-leading fifth sacrifice bunt to push Figueroa to third and LaPorta launched his 20th round-tripper and 74th of his career to put UF on the board first for the third day in a row. The blast turned out to be the slugger’s lone hit of the tourney.

 

The Gamecocks reached sophomore Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) in the second for three runs on four hits to move in front, 3-2. Junior Phil Disher singled to left, junior Trent Kline walked and sophomore Andrew Crisp beat out a bunt to load the bases with none out. Junior Harley Lail, who provided the game-winning hit in the 12th on Wednesday afternoon, delivered an RBI base-hit into left to cut the deficit in half. Keating retired the next two batters before junior Travis Jones gave USC a lead it would not relinquish with a two-run single through the left side.

 

Florida had a prime opportunity in the third, when it had Figueroa (single) and LaPorta (hit-by-pitch) aboard with one out. However, senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) lined to Jones at second and Figueroa was caught off base to complete the inning-ending double play.   

 

Leclerc reached on a throwing error by sophomore shortstop Reese Havens with one out in the sixth and was able to take second on the play. Cisco countered with back-to-back strikeouts of seniors Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) and Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.).         

 

The Gamecocks took advantage of two Gator errors in the bottom of the frame to build a 5-2 cushion. Crisp reached on a one-out throwing error by Figueroa and wound up on second before Lail punched an RBI single up the middle. A fielding miscue by freshman center fielder Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) enabled Lail to reach second and a walk to senior pinch hitter Robbie Grinestaff prompted a pitching change. Senior Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) was summoned to replace Keating (3-2), who worked 5.1 innings in his collegiate starting debut, allowing eight hits and five runs (three earned). The righty added a career-high five K.

Havens greeted the reliever with a sac bunt to move his teammates into scoring position and the Gators decided to walk Jones intentionally to load the bases. Junior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.) was called out of the bullpen and walked in a run by issuing a free pass to sophomore James Darnell to give USC a 5-2 lead. Freshman Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) kept the Gators down three runs by having second-team All-SEC recipient sophomore Justin Smoak line out to right field.

 

Jeffords retired the first two batters in the ninth before the Gators came to life. Junior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) and sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.) each drew pinch-hit walks before Figueroa’s third hit of the contest plated Barber with the third run. A fielding error by Lail on the play gave UF runners at second and third before Barnes grounded out to third to conclude the contest.

 

South Carolina held a 9-5 advantage in hits, led by the trio of Disher (3-for-4), Jones (2-for-4, two RBI) and Lail (2-for-4, two RBI). Figueroa (3-for-5) contributed multiple hits for the third-straight outing at the SEC Tournament and was 7-for-13 for a team-leading .538 batting average. Chapman threw 2.1 scoreless frames for the Gators.

 

-UF-

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