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A.J. Puk came up big with the bat and on the mound in Florida's 4-3 extra inning win over South Carolina.

Saturday April 12, 2014Gators Rally Late, Even Series with No. 4 South Carolina in 13-Inning Thriller

Gainesville, Fla.

A.J. Puk came up big with the bat and on the mound in Florida's 4-3 extra inning win over South Carolina.

No. 25 Florida’s Justin Shafer hit a sacrifice fly in the 13th inning and alternated with A.J. Puk on the mound to keep No. 4 South Carolina off the scoreboard in extra innings, as the Gators evened the series with the Gamecocks on Saturday. The Orange and Blue trailed 3-0 after seven, and rallied with two in the eighth and one in the ninth before taking the lead in extras.

Puk (3-2) earned the win with a perfect 10th, two outs in the 11th, one out in the 12th and a 1-2-3 13th. The freshman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, drove in Florida’s first run on a double after pinch hitting in the eighth and scored the second on shortstop Richie Martin’s RBI single. Second baseman Casey Turgeon drove in the tying run in the ninth with a RBI sac fly. Shafer recorded the last out in the 11th and two in the 12th.

The Gators began the 13th with consecutive singles from center fielder Harrison Bader and catcher Taylor Gushue. Bader would reach third and come around to score on Shafer’s RBI. Florida handed Gamecock closer Joel Seddon (1-1), who entered the game not allowing a run in 15 appearances, his first loss of the season.

The Gators (22-13, 8-6 SEC) will play South Carolina (28-6, 8-5 SEC) for the series and SEC East lead at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Starting pitcher Aaron Rhodes (5.0, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) and South Carolina starter Jack Wynkoop (7.0, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) kept the game scoreless until the home team scored two in the fifth. The Gamecocks added another in the sixth and looked to be in control.

Left fielder Buddy Reed’s bunt single to lead off the eighth ended Wynkoop’s day in favor of Cody Mincey. Puk drove Reed home in the following at bat with a double to left and Martin scored Puk with a single to right, chasing Mincey and brining in Seddon. Ryan Harris (1.1, 1 H, 2 SO) stranded the bases loaded by forcing a ground out to third in the bottom half of the eighth.

Zack Powers led off the ninth with a pinch hit single and was lifted for pinch runner Jason Lombardozzi. Turgeon’s RBI sac fly tied the game. Harris struck out two in the ninth to send the game to extras.

Postgame Quotes:

Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan

“That was a marathon. That was quite the game. There were so many positives. Aaron Rhodes gets his first start of the year and gets us off to a good start. The three runs we gave up were two strikes and two outs, just like yesterday. We close out a couple more innings and we might not go into extras. Aaron, for his first start, threw the ball really well. There are so many guys that contributed. Kirby Snead came in and gave us four outs. Ryan Harris came in and gave us for outs.”

On the play of Puk and Shafer…

“What can you say about the job A.J Puk did? He comes off the bench and hits a double on an 0-2 pitch to left-center and pitches like a veteran. I think he grew up an awful lot today. We’ve always known that he is very talented, but to do this on this stage when we lost the first one, was a heck of a performance both offensively and pitching wise. And Shafer, he comes in from right field, gets an out there and throws his slider for a strike to get us out of a jam, and then turns around and gets a sac fly there in the 13th.”

On the emotions of the game…

“There were so many different things that happened through out the game. I think we played 19 different playeras and pitchers. There was a lot of movement. We hung in there when we were down. We had not swung the bat well through seven, but to score two in the eighth, one in the ninth and to finish it off in the 13th was huge. It was a heck of a game. We’ll take a deep breath and review this thing. Hopefully this is a game we can look back on and say this is the one that got us going.”

A.J. Puk

“It says a lot about our team that we’re not going to give up and that we’re going to fight until the end. Today we did that. I’ve never come into hit, gone into the field and came into pitch in a game. It worked out today though.”

Florida Leaders:

· The Gators offense totaled 11 hits.

· Bader increased his hitting streak to five games with a two-out single in the first. Bader’s single in the sixth gives him five multi-hit games this season. His single in the 13th matched his career high for hits in a game at three.

· Gushue advanced Bader to second with a single in the 13th. The base hit also extended his hitting streak to nine games.

· First baseman Peter Alonso extended his hit streak to five games with a one-out single to right in the fifth. Alonso’s hit ended a streak of 11 consecutive Gators retired.

· Martin’s steal in the eighth was his 10th of the season. Martin is now 10-12 on the base paths this season.

· Shafer’s game winning sac fly was his third game winning RBI of the year.

Series Nuggets:

· The Gamecocks had been 23-0 entering the game when leading after eight innings. The loss at home was only South Carolina’s second of the year. The Gators are now 14-23 all-time in Columbia.

· Game three begins at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. The Gators have not announced a starter. South Carolina will pitch freshman Will Crowe (6-1, 2.08)

· South Carolina holds a 43-36 advantage in the all-time series, including a 23-14 record versus the Gators in Columbia.

· UF will need to win the next game to secure its third-consecutive series triumph at Carolina Stadium after notching victories in 2010 (W, W, L) and 2012 (L, W, W).

· Kevin O’Sullivan is 14-11 against South Carolina, 7-2 in Gainesville, 6-5 in Columbia, 1-1 at the SEC Tourney and 0-3 at the NCAA Tourney (all in Omaha).

· South Carolina’s crowd of 8,242 was the largest the Gators have faced in a true road game this season and the second sellout of the series.

Gators by the Numbers:

· Florida moves to 2-12 when trailing after eight innings.

· The Gators are 12-12 when they do not hit a home run and to 7-7 when they are outhit by their opponent.

· Florida has claimed 16 of its last 23 contests and boasts a 7-7 record away from Gainesville (5-7 in true road games, 2-0 at neutral sites).

· The Orange and Blue is 9-5 against top-25 opponents, including 7-1 against top-five competition this spring.

· The duo of Richie Martin (SS) and Turgeon (2B) has started all 35 games at their respective positions. Gushue has started all 35 games this year, with 28 coming at catcher and seven at designated hitter.

· Turgeon’s error in the seventh was his first of the season.

· Twenty of the Gators’ 35 games this season have been decided by 2 runs or less: UF is 9-5 in 1-run and 4-2 (in 2-run games.

· Florida has provided the fans with free baseball seven times already and boasts a 5-2 (.667) mark.

Road Tripping: Today’s contest was the sixth of an eight-game road trip for the Gators. Florida is 3-3 after the first six games. The Gators will play the third game against the Gamecocks on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. before facing Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers on Tuesday.


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