Florida takes series from S. Carolina
Fantana's ninth-inning triple powers top-ranked Gators to win
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Nolan Fontana delivered a tie-breaking, two-out, two-run triple in the ninth to lift No. 1 Florida (22-2, 5-1 SEC) to a 5-4 victory against No. 6 South Carolina (17-7, 1-5 SEC) before another sellout crowd of 8,242 fans at Carolina Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Fontana (2-for-5) had entered the contest 1-for-33 in his career against the Gamecocks and came through with the decisive hit. It was the third time that the Gators have emerged victorious in their final at bat this season and enabled head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club to capture the series.
With the game tied at two runs apiece entering the ninth, Vickash Ramjit drew a two-out walk from USC's Matt Price (3-2) and Cody Dent was hit in the back by a 3-2 pitch. Fontana picked an opportune time for his first triple of the season, ripping a 1-2 pitch from Price to the gap in right center to give the Gators a 5-3 advantage. Price stranded Fontana on third by getting Daniel Pigott (2-for-5) to fly out to right field.
In the home part of the inning, Dantzler brought South Carolina within 5-4 with a one-out homer to left center field, his fourth of the year and the first allowed by Austin Maddox this season. The right-hander (2-0) had Adam Matthews foul out to first baseman Taylor Gushue for the second out and induced a game-ending fly ball to right field by pinch hitter Brison Celek as the Gators claimed their second consecutive series victory in Columbia.
The Gators grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Colby Holmes on a sacrifice fly by Mike Zunino (1-for-3, two RBI). Fontana had led off the game with a base-hit into center field and took third on hard single by Preston Tucker that ricocheted off first baseman Christian Walker. Zunino’s team-high fifth sacrifice fly went to the warning track in right field and allowed Fontana to break the ice.
Pigott and Zunino boosted UF’s lead to 3-0 with solo homers in the third inning. With one down, Pigott battled back from 0-2 count and sent his second big fly of the season into the visiting bullpen. Zunino connected on his team-leading ninth round-tripper by hammering a two-out, 2-2 pitch to left center field to give the Orange and Blue a three-run advantage. It was his second-straight game with a homer after a three-run jack in the opening frame on Friday night.
Tyler Webb replaced Holmes prior to the fourth after the Gamecock starter surrendered three runs on five hits in three innings of work. Casey Turgeon (2-for-4) recorded his fourth double of the season down the left-field line but was left in scoring position when Webb induced consecutive grounders by Ramjit and Dent.
The Gamecocks narrowed the gap to 3-2 in the fourth inning on two hits and an error. Joey Pankake (2-for-3) started things off with a single into left field, the initial hit off Jonathon Crawford. Walker lofted a fly ball to straightaway center field that Pigott misplayed, leaving the hosts with two runners aboard with none out. Kyle Martin advanced his teammates with a sacrifice bunt and Grayson Greiner punched an RBI single into center field to bring home Pankake. Erik Payne drove in Walker with a sacrifice fly to right field and Crawford prevented further trouble by having Dantzler ground out.
South Carolina tied the game in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Pankake that scored Tanner English, who had reached on a one-out double into left field. Ramjit made a phenomenal leaping catch into the stands for the second out on a fly ball by Evan Marzilli but Pankake followed with a base-knock into left field to knot the game at 3-3.
After Crawford went the first five innings, giving up four hits and three runs (one earned), with two strikeouts and a walk, Steven Rodriguez took over on the mound. The southpaw set down the Gamecocks in order in the sixth to keep the contest tied.
Webb (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R) registered the first two outs of the seventh before turning the game over to Price, who had Pigott pop-up in foul territory to close the frame.
Rodriguez issued a one-out walk to Pankake in the eighth, prompting a pitching change. Maddox came in for Rodriguez (2.1 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K) and uncorked a wild pitch that pushed Pankake into scoring position. The Gators elected to issue an intentional free pass to Walker and USC sent up pinch hitter Michael Roth. Another wild pitch advanced both runners into scoring position and Maddox countered with back-to-back strikeouts of Roth and Greiner.