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Sunday March 27, 2011No. 4 South Carolina Edges No. 1 Florida, 4-3, To Take Series

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 4 South Carolina (18-5/4-2 SEC) capitalized on a bases-loaded walk with the game tied in the eighth inning to defeat No.1 Florida (21-4/4-2 SEC), 4-3, in front of 4,393 fans on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The Gamecocks overcame a 3-0 deficit with three runs in the sixth and took the lead when senior Adrian Morales earned a free pass from junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) (2-2) to bring across junior Adam Matthews with the decisive run. Sophomore All-American Matt Price (2-2) earned the win in the rubber match of the series with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief in which he surrendered one hit. The righty retired the final five UF hitters of the ballgame and South Carolina’s trio of relievers tossed seven scoreless frames.

 

USC’s series victory ended a stretch of 13-consecutive weekend series triumphs for Florida and marked the Gators’ first loss in a league series since March 26-28, 2010, at Ole Miss and the squad’s first conference series setback at home since April 17-19, 2009, to Ole Miss. The three-game series drew 14,838 fans to McKethan Stadium, a record for a weekend series since the facility opened in 1988.

 

“We jumped out to a 3-0 lead and we told them when they weren’t swinging bats that we needed to score another run or two because South Carolina hitters weren’t going to lay down,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think that the difference in the ballgame was when they brought in (Colby) Holmes and we got one hit over three innings and didn’t score. We didn’t really put any pressure on them.  South Carolina played great this weekend, they made the pitches and plays they needed to.”

 

In the first inning, junior Peter Mooney was hit by a pitch from freshman Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) with one down but was caught stealing by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). Junior Jackie Bradley, Jr. rifled a double to right field and was stranded on second after sophomore Christian Walker popped out to Zunino.

 

The Gators seized a 3-0 lead in the second stanza on an RBI single by sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.), a squeeze bunt by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) and a two-out RBI single by freshman Zack Powers (Seffner. Fla.). Junior Bryan Harper had retired the first four Gators of the contest before sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) drew a one-out walk and Zunino (3-for-4) followed with a base-hit into right field to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. Washington sliced a 3-2 offering into right field to plate Johnson with the opening run of the game and Adams dragged up a bunt up the first-base line to drive in Zunino. Starting for the first time in the series, Powers came through with a two-out single into left center that brought across Washington for a three-run margin.

 

Whitson set down seven Gamecocks in a row before permitting a one-out walk in the third to senior Scott Wingo. The right-hander rebounded to strike out Matthews (2-for-4, two runs) for the second time and had Mooney ground out. Sophomore Colby Holmes replaced Harper (2.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R) prior to UF’s third at bat and issued a one-out walk to junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) before having both sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Johnson fly out.

 

Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5) collected his first hit of the series with a two-out double in the fifth, his team-leading 14th two-bagger of the campaign. Tucker earned a free pass but Holmes had Maddox fly out to center field to strand the pair of runners.

 

The Gamecocks knotted the score at 3-3 in the sixth with three runs on two walks, one hit and an error. Matthews opened the inning with a walk, prompting a pitching change. Junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) replaced Whitson, who gave up two hits and a run and had five strikeouts over five-plus innings. The southpaw walked Mooney for two runners aboard and had Bradley, Jr., fly out to center, advancing Matthews to third base. Maddox was summoned from the bullpen and had Walker hit a potential double-play grounder to sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). However, Fontana committed an error, allowing Matthews to score USC’s first run. An RBI grounder by Morales brought home Mooney to narrow the gap to 3-2 and junior Jake Williams tied the game with a single up the middle that scored Walker.

 

In the home part of the inning, Johnson drew a walk from Holmes (3.0 IP, 1 H, 3 BB), who was then replaced by senior John Taylor. Zunino greeted the reliever with a single through the right side for two Gators on base and Washington walked to fill the bags with none out. Adams grounded to third base and Morales forced Johnson at home, but Adams was called out at first base when the umpire ruled that Johnson interfered with the catcher as he slid home. With the runners placed back on first and second, Taylor struck out Powers to keep the contest tied.

 

Maddox retired the side in the seventh and Pigott had a one-out single off Taylor in the bottom of the frame. Tucker grounded out to first base, pushing Pigott to second, and Taylor was taken out with a 0-1 count on Maddox. Price had Maddox fly out to end the frame.

 

Toledo took over for Maddox (1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R) to start the eighth and Matthews led off with a double into right center. Mooney was hit by a pitch and was awarded first base and Bradley, Jr. laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved his teammates into scoring position. Walker was walked intentionally to load the bases with one down and Morales drew a walk that gave USC a 4-3 lead. Toledo had Williams pop up in foul territory for the second out and was replaced by sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.). The southpaw had senior Brady Thomas ground out to hold UF’s deficit at one run.

 

Zunino poked a one-out double to the wall in right center and Price retired both Washington (strikeout) and Adams (ground out) to complete the eighth. Rodriguez struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Matthews delivered his second double of the afternoon into right field. A passed ball by Zunino moved Matthews to third and Rodriguez had Mooney ground out. With the Gators down to their final three outs, Price had junior pinch hitter Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.), Fontana and Pigott fly out to close the game.

 

The Gators return to action on Tuesday night in Jacksonville for the third of their four regular-season encounters with No. 5 Florida State (18-6/6-3 ACC). The Seminoles notched a 5-3 victory in Tampa on March 1 before UF evened the series with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings in Gainesville on March 15.

 

For all of the latest information on Florida baseball, log on to http://www.gatorzone.com/baseball/ or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow the team’s Twitter account @GatorZoneBB at www.twitter.com/GatorZoneBB

 

Game Notes

·         Florida fell to 16-3 at home this season.

·         The Gators are now 5-1 in one-run contests.

·         UF held a 7-5 advantage in hits and committed the lone error of the game

·         The Gamecocks defeated the Gators in a series for the first time since taking two out of three games in Columbia in 2008.

                                                                                                    

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