COLUMBIA, S.C. – After fourth ranked South Carolina broke ahead 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, 13th ranked Florida fought back with four runs in the top of the eighth inning and held off a rally to defeat the Gamecocks 6-5 in the rubber game of a three-game SEC series at Carolina Stadium. Florida is 23-13 and 9-6 in the SEC with Carolina 28-7 and 8-7 in league play. All three games this weekend were played in front of sellout crowds of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium for a total of 24,726 fans for the weekend.
The Gamecocks went ahead for the first time in the game in the seventh inning. Tied at 2-2, Kyle Martin led off with a double, moved to third base on a balk and scored on Grayson Greiner's sac fly to center field. Taylor Widener would reach base on a fielding error by shortstop Richie Martin and Patrick Harrington walked to give Carolina a pair of runners. Widener scored the second run of the inning on a fielding error by Florida third baseman Peter Alonso.
With the Gamecocks ahead 4-2, Florida mounted one more rally as the Gators stringed together three consecutive one-out hits from Taylor Gushue, Braden Mattson and A.J. Puk to load the bases. The Gamecocks went to the pen for Widener. Florida then scored two runs as a hard grounder up the middle off the bat of Peter Alonso got past Gamecock shortstop Marcus Mooney allowing a pair of runs to score. With the game tied at 4-4, Zack Powers doubled to give Florida a one-run lead. Buddy Reed added a RBI base hit that gave the Gators a two-run edge.
South Carolina tried to come back one more time as Jordan Gore led off the eighth inning with a solo homer to right-center. However, Florida reliever Eric Hanhold would limit the Gamecocks to just a walk the rest of the way to seal the win for Florida.
Florida reliever Dane Dunning pitched 0.2 scoreless innings to pick up the win. He is 1-0 on the year. South Carolina freshman right-hander Wil Crowe suffered the loss and is 6-2 for the season. He allowed five runs, two earned, on 10 hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Hanhold picked up his second save of the season.
Obviously it was a disappointing loss and a disappointing series loss. We had a chance to win in all three games and really just couldn't hold a lead. As far as today's game I was proud of the players that I put in there that haven't normally played because they gave me everything that they had and I thought that they competed their rear-ends off, as did our team. We scratched and clawed and I tried to get us five runs, which usually wins the game for us and it didn't today.
"You have to give credit to Florida," said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. They put it in play and we got just what we wanted there with (Peter) Alonso up the middle and we couldn't make the play. That could have easily been a double play and we win the game. Baseball is a cruel game sometimes and we had some other opportunities early in the game, when we were up 1-0 with the bases loaded and our best hitter at the plate and we couldn't get anything there. Just like yesterday we had opportunities to win and our guys competed and played their tails off the best that they could. I'm sure that we could have done some things better but we couldn't make the big plays when it counted or make the big pitches or get the big hit and that sums up the weekend. Their pitchers made the big pitches and their hitters made the big hits and that is why they deserve and did win two games."
South Carolina broke ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning taking advantage of the first of three errors by third baseman Peter Alonso. Martin would reach base on a two-out single. The Gamecocks then caught a break as Alonso looked to record the third out at second base but threw wide of the bag allowing Martin to reach second and Grayson Greiner to make it to first on the fielder's choice. That set the stage for Taylor Widener, who roped a base hit into left-center scoring Martin.
The Gators would take a 2-1 lead in the third inning. Buddy Reed led off with a single and with two outs Harrison Bader reached base on a fielding error by Gamecock shortstop Marcus Mooney. With runners on the corners, Taylor Gushue knocked a base hit up the middle scoring Reed. Braden Mattson followed with a RBI base hit up the middle as well to give the Gators a one-run advantage.
South Carolina tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Greiner reached base with one out with a double down the left field line. A throwing error by Florida shortstop Richie Martin would put Widener on first base and runners on the corners with one out. Greiner scored on a RBI groundout by Patrick Harrington that nicked Florida reliever Karsten Whitson. The RBI was the first RBI for Harrington in his career.
Florida had 13 hits with the Gamecocks finishing with seven. Gushue and Mattson each went 3-for-5 with Buddy Reed 3-for-3 as well. Kyle Martin went 2-for-5 with two runs to lead the Gamecocks.
South Carolina returns to action on Tuesday night hosting Charleston Southern at Carolina Stadium. First pitch is 7 p.m. with live video stream at GamecocksOnline and the game available on the Gamecock Radio Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, "The Game."