Friday March 25, 2005No. 6 South Carolina Takes Opener from No. 11 Baseball, 2-0
Seniors Aaron Rawl and Jason Fletcher combined on a six-hit shutout as No. 6 South Carolina (19-3/2-2 SEC) claimed the opener of its weekend series against No. 11 Florida (17-7/1-3 SEC) on Friday night at McKethan Stadium in front of 2,376 fans. The Gators had not been blanked at home since falling to Kentucky, 5-0, on April 16, 1999.
Rawl (5-2) registered a season-high nine strikeouts over seven innings and USC used an RBI double by sophomore Tommy King and a run-scoring single by junior Davy Gregg to snap a 0-0 stalemate in the seventh. Fletcher threw two scoreless frames to collect his second save. Although Gator junior Bryan Ball (Punta Gorda, Fla.) (5-1) tied his career high with seven K over 6.2 innings, he fell for the first time in 2005.
"What an outstanding college baseball game tonight," said Florida head coach Pat McMahon. "I was very pleased with the performance of our bullpen, they held the game close in several tough situations. I thought Bryan (Ball) competed and got stronger as the game progressed. He pitched well to keep us in this game."
Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) led off the bottom of the first with a double to the fence in center field and was sacrificed to third on a bunt by sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.). Rawl answered with strikeouts of sophomores Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) and Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) to strand Corsaletti on third.
For USC, junior Cory Vanderhook opened the third with a base-hit into left just above the outstretched arms of junior shortstop Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) and Gregg legged out a bunt to give USC two runners aboard. Junior Steven Tolleson struck out attempting to bunt, junior Chris Brown popped up to second and senior Steve Pearce grounded out to keep the game scoreless.
King started the Gamecocks fifth with a single to left and Vanderhook followed with a sacrifice to put his teammate in scoring position. A fielder’s choice by Gregg pushed King to third before Ball whiffed Tolleson for the final out. Brown singled to left center to open the next frame and Ball induced a pop-up to short by Pearce. The Gators escaped the inning with a 5-4-3 double play on a ball hit by sophomore Jon Willard.
Junior Michael Campbell drew a walk from Ball, the righty’s only free pass of the night, and took second on a bunt by senior Brendan Winn. King then ripped a double to the corner in left field to plate Campbell with the opening run of the contest. A fly-out in foul territory in right field enabled King to take third and Gregg followed with an RBI single to right to give USC a 2-0 lead and finish the night for Ball. The junior scattered seven hits over 6.2 innings and threw 120 pitches in his seventh-straight start of six or more innings. Senior reliever Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) committed a balk to advance Gregg but rebounded with a strikeout of Tolleson.
Sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) drew a base on balls to open the home portion of the eighth and Corsaletti stroked a single into right center to chase Rawl from the game with none out. With UF runners on the corners, Fletcher retired Davis on a pop-up to short, dealt LaPorta his third K of the game and had Leclerc fly out to right to keep the hosts off the board.
Carolina loaded the bases with one out in the ninth but could not add to its lead. Campbell lashed a leadoff double to straightaway center field and Winn dragged a bunt to leave the Garnet and Black with runners on first and third. King’s fielder’s choice resulted in Campbell being thrown out at the plate on a relay from Davis to sophomore catcher Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.). However, Dickey dropped Vanderhook’s liner to left, resulting in a bases-loaded situation with one out. Sophomore Stephen Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) relieved Falkenbach and had Gregg tap back to him, forcing Winn at home for the second out. Junior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) fanned Tolleson to hold the deficit at 2-0.
The Gators put two runners on base with two down in their last at bat, as Tordi smacked a double and junior Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) was hit by a pitch. Fletcher completed the win for South Carolina by striking out freshman pinch hitter Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.). USC held a 9-6 edge in hits, led by King (2-for-4) and Gregg (2-for-4). Corsaletti and Tordi each had two hits for the home team. The clubs will meet again tomorrow at 4 p.m., as senior Tommy Boss (Dunnellon, Fla.) (3-1, 4.34 ERA) will face senior Zac McCamie (5-0, 2.06 ERA).