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