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Saturday March 18, 2000Florida Baseball Drops 5-2 Decision to USC

Gainesville, FL

Florida faced a fourth-ranked South Carolina baseball squad that entered the weekend with a Southeastern Conference record 20-game win streak to open the season.

It is now 21. South Carolina’s Nate Janowicz’ eighth inning triple scored two to help the Gamecocks post a 5-2 victory in the series opener at Sarge Fry Field. USC improved to 21-0, 4-0 in SEC play, while Florida dropped to 14-12, 1-3.

Florida starter Mike Smalley battled South Carolina ace Kip Bouknight, who posted a perfect 6-0 record in his first six starts, in an exciting pitching dual that saw just four runs score on 10 hits with 24 strikeouts in the first seven and a half innings.

With USC leading in the eighth 2-1 on a pair of unearned runs, left fielder Matt Siegel hit a two-out home run that tied the game. But, South Carolina responded with three off Smalley in the decisive bottom of the eighth for their 21st consecutive win.

After a walk and single put a pair of runners on base with one out, Smalley got John McHenry to strikeout for his 12th on the night. Janowicz, who was 0-for-4 on the night, then tripled to right center field to plate the go-ahead runs. Janowicz later scored on a single off reliever Kenny Birch.

“I thought Mike (Smalley) was outstanding tonight,” said Head Coach Andy Lopez. “He was getting up in his pitch count and in the past we have not covered him in the bullpen. We made a decision and it did not come out his way.”

Smalley (3-3) allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits with 12 strikeouts. He also walked six batters. Bouknight also had 12 strikeouts, allowing just two runs on six hits to improve to 7-0 on the season.

Florida had its best chance against Bouknight in the seventh. Jason Dill led off the inning with a single to center field, advancing to second on a Tim Olson single. After a fielder’s choice left runners on the corners with two outs, Bouknight got Aaron Sobieraj out on a called third strike to end the inning.

Trailing 1-0, Florida tied the game in the fifth inning on a double by freshman Aaron Sobieraj, scoring Tim Olson who had doubled earlier in the inning.

South Carolina scored its first two runs with the help of three Florida errors by Olson.

“Nobody wants to make a mistake,” said Lopez of Olson. “He probably feels as bad as anyone in the state of South Carolina.”

The Gamecocks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third on an unearned run helped by a botched pickoff play at second base. USC second baseman walked to leadoff the inning, advancing to second on a ground out. He then advanced to third base when Smalley’s pickoff attempt got away from Olson and scored on Brennan Dees infield single to shortstop. USC added another run when Olson dropped a pop-up in the infield that was the potential third out in the seventh.

Florida and South Carolina play the second game of the series Saturday at 4 p.m.

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