2014 SEC Tournament: Florida 7, South Carolina 2, and the new order?

PodKATT of ATVS

Florida's struggled against South Carolina in big spots before. That wasn't the case on Thursday.

In case you couldn't tell, I wrote the "preview" for yesterday's Florida-South Carolina game, and the recap of Florida's loss to Kentucky, with the possibility of a prompt second loss for the Gators at the 2014 SEC Tournament in mind.

That didn't happen.

Instead of falling to South Carolina, as Florida did at the 2011 and 2012 College World Series, the Gators struck back after falling into an early hole, sending the Gamecocks home from Hoover with a 7-2 win.

Casey Turgeon went 3-for-5 with two RBI, Taylor Gushue tied the game in the third with a two-run single, and Josh Tobias continued his surprising surge of late with a solo homer. Florida starter A.J. Puk allowed both of South Carolina's runs in his four innings of work, but reliever Bobby Poyner finished the game with five shutout innings, earning the win by scattering just four baserunners during his time on the bump.

This is a Florida team that is as once as fragile as I fear it is, and deep enough to beat any team in the country — something it has proved time and again by racking up wins against its merciless schedule — on any given day. It's often hard to figure which kind of day it will be for the Gators, but Thursday was certainly a good one.

And Thursday was also an extension of an exorcism of demons against South Carolina that has spanned almost two years now. The Gators took maybe the most painful defeats in program history to South Carolina in the 2011 College World Series championship series, losing twice to the 'Cocks in close, hard-fought games that felt like the reigning power just having a little more than the upstart. And the 2012 College World Series began with Florida getting sent to the losers' bracket by the 'Cocks, the beginning of an unceremonious departure for a team that lives on as "the most talented team in school history" or "the most talented team in college baseball history," depending on which unsubstantiated claim you find more persuasive.

But since that 2012 game, Florida's now gone 6-1 against South Carolina; since the 2011 season, it's actually 9-2, certainly a fine record. Those games since 2011 span three regular season series — 2-1 decisions for Florida in Columbia in 2012 and 2014 and the lowly 2013 Gators' 3-0 sweep of the Gamecocks in Gainesville — a 7-2 win for the Gators in the 2012 SEC Tournament, and Thursday's win.

It's entirely possible that the Gators will follow this SEC Tournament win over South Carolina with a loss, like they did against Vanderbilt in 2012 — especially given that the Gators will now meet Mississippi State, which has been swinging its bats well, even in its Thursday loss to Kentucky, on Friday night.

And one win over a rival doesn't cure all the ills that still plague Florida. It's still a leaky lineup, and there's still about one go-to starter missing from the roster.

But it's the latest step away from the crushing defeats South Carolina delivered in Omaha. And for the Gators, it's probably nice to have the shoe on the other foot.

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