No. 6 Gamecocks take bite out of No. 1-ranked Gators

No. 6 South Carolina scored seven runs in the seventh and eighth innings on the way to a 9-3 victory over No. 1 Florida on Thursday night in the series opener at Carolina Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242 fans.

Carolina improves to 17-5 and 1-3 in the SEC while Florida drops to 20-2 and 3-1 in league play. Game two of the series is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.

The pitching matchup between South Carolina starter Michael Roth and Florida starter Hudson Randall was as good as advertised. Roth went 6.2 innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits with five strikeouts and three walks. Randall worked 5.2 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits with 11 strikeouts and one walk.

With the score deadlocked at 2-2 it was left to the bullpens to decide the fate of the game. Junior right-hander Matt Price made his first relief appearance of the season and shut down the Gator offense in the seventh inning that set the stage for the Gamecock offense in the bottom half.

Evan Marzilli led off the Carolina seventh with his third single of the night, forcing Florida to call the designated hitter, Austin Maddox from the bullpen to face Joey Pankake. The shortstop would lay down a sacrifice bunt to move Marzilli into scoring position. Christian Walker stepped to the plate and quickly went down 0-2 in the count, but for the second time on the evening, he came back to earn a walk.

LB Dantzler would earn the same fate, as he walked on five pitches to load the bases for pinch hitter Kyle Martin. The freshman came through for Carolina, roping a two-run single down the right field line to put the Gamecocks up 4-2. South Carolina was not done yet though, as second baseman Erik Payne came to the plate with two outs and runners on the corners. The sophomore ripped a line drive to the right-center wall, clearing the bases and putting Carolina up 6-2 heading into the eighth inning.

Price quelled any answer from Florida in their half of the eighth posting a pair of strikeouts to get the Gators to go quietly. Adam Matthews led off the Gamecocks’ half with his third hit of the night, and Marzilli would follow with a sacrifice bunt that moved Matthews to third because of an error on the throw. However, Marzilli would be thrown out at second on the play. Pankake and Walker followed with walks to load the bases again for the Gamecocks with one out. That brought in freshman left hander Corey Stump to face Dantzler. Stump’s 2-0 pitch to Dantzler went to the backstop and all the runners advanced, including a scoring Matthews.

Dantzler took two more balls and loaded the bases back up for substitute catcher Dante Rosenberg. The junior sent a high chopper to first for an RBI ground out and the Gamecocks lead was stretched to 8-2. Brison Celek then came in to pinch hit and the sophomore cracked an RBI single through the left side. Dantzler would be thrown out at the plate on the play to end the eighth for the Garnet and Black, leading 9-2. Florida would score an unearned run in the top half of the ninth but that would be it as Price recorded the final out to seal the Gamecock victory.

Price earned the win with 2.1 innings allowing one run, unearned, on no hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He is 3-1 on the year. Florida reliever Steven Rodriguez suffered the loss and is 3-1 for the season. He allowed one run on one hit in 0.1 innings with a strikeout.

Carolina’s 12-hit day included a 3-for-4 game from Evan Marzilli as well as Adam Matthews. Tanner English also was 2-for-4. Martin, Matthews and Erik Payne each drove in two runs. Daniel Pigott led Florida with a 2-for-4 day at the plate.

Florida would draw first blood in the third inning as Casey Turgeon would lead off by getting on with by a Gamecock error. With two outs, Turgeon had been moved to third after a Daniel Pigott single. Gator right fielder Preston Tucker stepped to the plate and delivered a single to right to open the scoring. Roth would retire Zunino to end the inning, but the Gators took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the third.

The Gamecocks would break through in the fourth on a two-out, two-run home run by Matthews. After Randall sat down the first two Gamecock batters via strikeout, freshman left fielder and St. James High product Tanner English poked a single into left center to set the table for Matthews. The Lexington, S.C. native sent a 0-1 pitch soaring into the Gator bullpen, and Carolina took a 2-1 lead into the fifth.

After both teams went down in order in the fifth, Florida would tie the game up at two with an RBI single from designated hitter Austin Maddox. Pigott led off the inning with a single and was advanced to second after a two out walk to Taylor Gushue. Maddox would deliver the RBI single into center to knot the game at 2.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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