I was beginning to think that this top-ranked Florida (20-2, 3-1) baseball team was never going to lose again. With their 18-game winning streak and their overall dominance of pretty much everyone they played against a very tough schedule and with No. 6 South Carolina (17-5, 1-3) scuffling, losing four out of five games, I thought this series might go the same way it went when the Gators played the Hurricanes in Coral Gables. But I was wrong. This team is mortal. They can lose a game. Austin Maddox can give up runs. Their relief pitching as a whole can give up runs. They don't always get the timely hits they need. That and they faced their arch-nemesis' from the 2011 College World Series Finals, Michael Roth and Matt Price. And in their first rematch since the CWS, South Carolina prevailed again, 9-3.
Hudson Randall started the game off shaky for Florida, loading the bases with no outs and walking a batter. He also had numerous three ball counts in the first inning. But Randall settled down on when he struck out LB Dantzler on what should have been ball four. He settled down to strike out the side and get out of trouble. Randall ended up lasting 5 2/3 innings, scattering 7 hits, and two runs off of a Adam Matthews home run, and striking out a career high 11. But Florida's bullpen is where they fell apart. Stephen Rodriguez (3-1) took the loss for Florida, giving up one run in 1/3 of an inning. Maddox and Corey Stump didn't fare any better, each giving up three runs and walking two in 2/3 of an inning apiece. Meanwhile, Roth pitched 6 2/3 innings, two runs, one earned, on four hits and striking out five. Price (3-1) finished out the game, pitching 2 1/3 innings, giving up no hits, but one unearned run.
Matthews gave the Gamecocks the lead with his two run blast in the fifth. But Florida evened it up in the sixth at twos when Maddox hit an RBI single, scoring Daniel Pigott.
But that's when South Carolina really took control of the game, scoring four runs on three hits. Kyle Martin came into the game as a pinch-hitter and came through in the clutch with a bases loaded single scoring two. Erik Payne hit a bases clearing double to put the score at 6-2. The Gamecocks added three more runs on two hits in the eighth. The first run scored Matthews on a wild pitch by Stump. Dante Rosenberg added an RBI single to score Joey Pankake (awesome name by the way). Pinch-hitter Brison Celek following with an RBI single to put SC up 9-2.
The Gators still have a chance to win the series with two more games coming Friday and Saturday. Friday, Florida sends Brian Johnson (3-0, 3.16 ERA) to the mound, coming off his best outing of the season. South Carolina will counter with Forrest Koumas (1-1, 2.13 ERA). Friday's game starts at 7 p.m. and can be seen on CSS, which, for the lucky viewers in Gainesville, is Cox channel 259).