Florida 3, South Carolina 2: Revenge and hope for Gators baseball

Ronald Martinez

The Gators defeated No. 8 South Carolina in baseball last night, which means their at-large NCAA Tournament hopes just got a little better.

Two years ago, Florida handed South Carolina a one-run victory in the opening game of the College World Series Championship Series with an array of mistakes. Last night, with much less on the line, the Gamecocks returned the favor.

While nobody can argue that last night's 3-2 win over South Carolina even comes close to making up for all the misery the Gamecocks have caused the Gators over the past few years, we'll take it.

This season has turned into one where the Gators will take any win they can get.

Jonathan Crawford allowed two runs in 6.2 innings, Mike Fahrman drove in a run, the Gamecocks gave the Gators two more with errors, and Gamecock baserunner T.J. Costen slipped and was tagged for the final out of the game en route to the tying run, and Florida's win was more escape than domination.

Just a few short months after their third straight College World Series appearance, the Gators suddenly found themselves under .500 early in the season and stayed there. Not since Casey Turgeon's bat exploded for four hits against Indiana in early March has Florida been at .500, but on Friday, they have a shot at getting back there in the second of three games against South Carolina.

The problem is, they can't count on South Carolina giving the game away like they did last night, nor can they count on getting as lucky as they did last night.

South Carolina committed two errors, which isn't horrible, but when you're locked in a pitcher's duel, each one becomes magnified a few times over, and these were both costly, leading directly to Florida runs. Without them, the Gamecocks would probably have won, 2-1. But even so, both of them could have been pardoned had Costen not slipped on his way to scoring the tying run.

The combination spelled doom for the No. 8 team in the country, and breathed some life into the Gators in terms of their NCAA Tournament chances. The Gators appeared dead just a short week ago; three straight wins later, this team has a pulse.

The question now becomes this: Can the Gators take the series? We've seen the Gators take the first game against two other top-10 teams (Vanderbilt and Kentucky) only to lose the next two, and thus, the series. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee really doesn't give a damn if you can take a game off the Atlanta Braves; they are looking for series wins. Taking a series from Miami is somewhat helpful, and Florida's series win over Ole Miss was nice, but the Gators need a big, headlining series win to bolster their tournament résumé in the worst way. Florida's played the toughest schedule in baseball, but it needs to actually do something impressive with it for it to matter.

For now, it's a good sign that there's a heartbeat in the dugout in Gainesville. If Florida can take the next step, fans can start taking heart, too.

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