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Thursday March 22, 2012No. 6 South Carolina Takes Opener Over No. 1 Baseball, 9-3

Columbia, S.C.

No. 6 South Carolina (17-5/1-3 SEC) snapped a 2-2 tie with a four-run seventh inning and added three runs in the eighth to defeat No. 1 Florida (20-2/3-1 SEC), 9-3, on Thursday night in the opener of a three-game series in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,242 fans at Carolina Stadium. Freshman Kyle Martin delivered a pinch-hit, two-run single with the bases loaded and one down to move the Gamecocks in front and sophomore Erik Payne added a two-run double to put USC in control. Junior Matt Price (3-1), Saturday’s scheduled starter, earned the victory with 2.1 hitless innings of relief as the Gators’ school-record winning streak was halted at 18 games. Junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) (3-1) was on the hook for the loss as one of five UF pitchers.


Thursday’s starters, Florida junior righty Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) and South Carolina senior lefty Michael Roth, each allowed a pair of runs during his tenure. Randall set a career high with 11 strikeouts and yielded seven hits over 5.2 innings, while Roth scattered four hits over 6.2 innings, with five K and three walks.


The Gamecocks loaded the bases against Randall with none out in the first inning but the right-hander responded with three-consecutive strikeouts. Junior Evan Marzilli (3-for-4) lined the first pitch of USC’s at bat into left center field for a single and freshman Joey Pankake followed with a base-hit up the middle for runners on the corners. A wild pitch moved Pankake to second base and junior Christian Walker drew his first of three walks to load the bases with none out. Randall fanned junior LB Dantzler and freshman Grayson Greiner and caught Roth looking on strikes to strand the runners.


Florida opened the scoring in the third inning on a two-out RBI single by senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.). Freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) had started the frame by reaching on a fielding error by shortstop Pankake and went to second on a grounder by junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4) collected the Gators’ initial hit off Roth with a two-out infield single that pushed Turgeon to third base. Tucker drove in his teammate by slicing a 2-2 pitch into right field.


In the bottom of the inning, Walker reached second base on a one-out dropped fly ball by freshman left fielder Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.). Randall worked out of trouble by having Dantzler line out to right field and Greiner strike out.


South Carolina claimed a 2-1 lead in the fourth on a two-out homer to left center by senior Adam Matthews (3-for-4). Randall struck out the first two batters of the inning, Roth and Payne, before freshman Tanner English (2-for-4) singled into center field. Matthews followed with his second round-tripper of the season into the visitor’s bullpen to move the Gamecocks in front.


Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) evened the score at two runs apiece in the sixth with a two-out single into center field. Pigott collected his second hit of the night with a leadoff single and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) earned a free pass with two down. Soon after, Maddox roped a 2-0 pitch into center to bring across Pigott with the tying run. Roth countered with a strikeout of junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) to close the frame.


Randall struck out the first two batters in the home part of the inning, Roth and Payne, to establish a career best with 11 strikeouts. It marked the first time that a Gator hurler reached double-digit strikeouts in an outing since Alex Panteliodis had 12 against Miami (Fla.) in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional on June 11, 2010. An infield single by English prompted a pitching change, as Rodriguez replaced Randall (5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 11 K, 1 BB). The reliever was charged with a balk that moved English into scoring position but struck out Matthews to keep the contest tied.


Roth recorded the first two outs in the seventh and Fontana drew a walk to cause a pitching change. Over 6.2 innings, Roth allowed four hits and two runs (one earned), with five strikeouts and three walks. Price came into the contest and Fontana swiped second base for his team-leading sixth theft. However, the 2011 All-American closer Price responded by catching Pigott looking on strikes.  


The Gamecocks used a two-run pinch-hit single with the bases full by Martin and a two-run double by Payne to seize a 6-2 lead in the bottom of the stanza. Marzilli began the inning with a single into left field and Maddox was summoned to replace Rodriguez (0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 K). Pankake moved Marzilli to second with a sacrifice bunt and Maddox walked Walker, the first time he had issued a free pass all season. He then walked Dantzler to load the bags and Martin came through with a base-knock down the right-field line to score both Marzilli and Walker. Maddox retired Roth on an infield fly and Payne cleared the bases with a double into right center to expand the Gamecocks’ lead to four runs. Maddox (0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 BB) was replaced by freshman Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.), who had an inning-ending strikeout of English.


South Carolina tacked on three more runs on two hits in the eighth to build a 9-2 lead. Matthews began the inning with a single into left center and wound up on third base on a sacrifice bunt by Marzilli and an error by Gushue that resulted in a 3-6-3 run-down and Marzilli being tagged out. Pankake and Walker drew consecutive walks from Harris, bringing in freshman Corey Stump (Lakeland, Fla.). The lefty uncorked a wild pitch to bring across Matthews with the seventh run and walked Dantzler to re-load the bases with one down. Junior Dante Rosenberg had an RBI grounder to drive in Pankake and sophomore Brison Celek followed with a pinch-hit single into left field that scored Walker, with Pigott throwing out Dantzler at the plate to end the inning.


The Gators finalized the scoring at 9-3 in the ninth on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.). Dent drew a leadoff walk and was safe at second on a muffed throw on a fielder’s choice by freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.). Fontana walked for the second time and Ramjit lofted a sac fly into center field to score Dent with the game’s final run. South Carolina out-hit the visitors, 12-4.


Friday’s game two at 7 p.m. on CSS (Cox Communications Channel 259 in Gainesville) will pit UF junior left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (3-0, 3.16) versus Gameock sophomore right-hander Forrest Koumas (1-1, 2.13).


Game Notes

·         Tonight was the 14th sellout all-time at Carolina Stadium, third of the season.

·         Florida fell to 3-1 on the road this season.

·         The Gators’ last loss before tonight was an 8-5 setback to No. 16 Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 19.

·         The four hits by UF matched its season low (Florida Gulf Coast, March 11).

·         The six walks were the most allowed by the Gator pitching staff and its 13 strikeouts matched the second-highest output this year.

·         Junior Hudson Randall surpassed his previous career-high of 10 strikeouts against Bethune-Cookman on June 4, 2010, at the NCAA Gainesville Regional.

·         Randall’s total of 11 K was the most by a Gator pitcher this season, as Brian Johnson had nine versus Vanderbilt last Saturday.

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