No. 25 Florida baseball bests No. 4 South Carolina in dramatic fashion; Gators lead SEC East race

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 25 Florida Gators baseball (23-13, 9-6 SEC) sits atop the Southeastern Conference East division after coming through big over the weekend by taking two of three from the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks (28-7, 8-5) in dramatic fashion on the road at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, SC.

Florida jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the first inning of the series opener, but it was the only run it could muster against South Carolina lefty Jordan Montgomery, who struck out eight batters. A one-out walk issued in the fifth by UF freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (7 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, BB, 2 K) snowballed into a three-run inning for USC, which added an insurance run in the seventh and held on for the 4-1 victory.

The Gamecocks looked to be on their way to securing a series win during game two on Saturday, but the Gators turned things around in a major way with just six outs to go.

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No. 4/5 Florida baseball clinches 2010 SEC title with 5-2 victory over No. 6/7 South Carolina

Junior second baseman Josh Adams knocked in two RBI in the top of the seventh inning to propel No. 4/5 Florida Gators baseball (40-12, 22-7 SEC) to a series-clinching and 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship-winning 5-2 victory over the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks (42-13, 20-9 SEC) on Friday evening in Columbia, SC.

Stepping up to the plate at Carolina Stadium in the seventh with two outs and both sophomore outfielder Daniel Pigott and junior designated hitter Bryson Smith on base, Adams (3-4) dropped a double into right-centerfield to break the tie and put the Gators up two runs. He would once again be the hero two innings later, recording his third RBI of the night on a single to score sophomore catcher Ben McMahan.

“Finally! It’s just one of those situations where I had to come through,” Adams explained after the game when discussing his tiebreaking hit. “It was my time, and I knew that. He made a good pitch, and I fortunately got the barrel on it.”

Adams, sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-3) and freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (1-3) combined for all five of the team’s RBI and six of Florida’s eight hits, providing support to freshman starter Hudson Randall, who struggled through 5.1 innings. Relievers freshman Steven Rodriguez (1-0) and sophomore Greg Larson combined for two scoreless innings, serving as a bridge to junior closer Kevin Chapman who tossed the final 1.2 innings for his 10th save of the season.

“[Randall] battled. He’s a tough, tough kid,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said recalling the freshman’s gumption and effort. This was not one of his best starts statistically, but you’re going to have games like that and you’re going to have to make some adjustments as you go. You’re going to have to battle.”

The Gators went into the weekend series at the Gamecocks needing to win two of three games to earn their 11th conference baseball championship and first since 2005. Florida did just that by winning the two opening contests, standing victorious in 22 SEC games and setting a University of Florida single-season record in the process. They also picked up a league-high 20th division championship.

“All the credit goes to the players and the assistant coaches,” O’Sullivan said. “The players are the ones making the plays. They have to go on the road and make pitches and play the game. I’m awful proud of them to come into a place like South Carolina and play with a top five-or-six club. [We are] a younger team – inexperienced. To do what they’ve done…I’m awful proud of them.”

After recording the last out, as is customary, the Gators jumped into a dogpile in the infield. Larson came out of it smiling with a bloody nose as his coach simultaneously celebrated on the field with a brand new evaluation of his team.

“They’re battle-tested now,” he exclaimed.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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Gators take SEC lead, edge Gamecocks 3-2

Opening a three-game series that will ultimately decide the 2010 Southeastern Conference regular season champion, the No. 4/5 Florida Gators (39-12, 21-7 SEC) delivered the first blow by squeaking out a 3-2 win over the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks (42-12, 20-8 SEC) Thursday night on the road at Carolina Stadium.

Junior closer Kevin Chapman helped the Gators maintain a 3-2 lead, tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts without giving up a single hit for his ninth save of the season. Sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis was pulled after giving up a run in 3.1 innings, only to have Jeff Barfield go on to give up another in his 2.2 innings of relief. Barfield (4-0) would end up the winning pitcher with the Gamecocks’ Blake Cooper (10-1) earning his first loss of the season after allowing three runs in 6.2 innings.

At a scoreless tie heading into the top of the third inning, the Gators opened up the game when sophomore outfielder Tyler Thompson (1-3) hit a lead-off home run to right field. With two outs in the inning, a rally was put together that would eventually score sophomore OF Daniel Pigott (3-5), who got on base with a double.

Florida added to their lead in the fourth. Senior OF Matt den Dekker (1-4) singled to start off the inning and would eventually score on a ground out RBI by junior second baseman Josh Adams (0-4). UF would hold on from there, though they did allow South Carolina to add a run in both the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings.

The action continues Friday evening at 7 p.m. as Gators freshman Hudson Randall (6-3, 2.96 ERA) goes up against Gamecocks junior Sam Dyson (5-4, 3.79 ERA). Should Florida win, they would clinch their first SEC title since 2005.

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