COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Florida rallied with four runs in the eighth inning to rally for the second time in as many games, giving the Gators a 6-5 win against No. 4 South Carolina, a pivotal 2-1 Southeastern Conference road series win and the outright SEC East lead. The Orange and Blue showed heart all weekend, overcoming a season-high five errors today and scoring a combined eight runs in the eighth inning or later.
Florida is now 3-2 in SEC series this year, 23-13 overall and 9-6 in the SEC. The victory dropped the Gamecocks to 28-7 and 8-5 in league play. In addition, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan earned his 275th career win.
The Gators connected on three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases for third baseman Peter Alonso to start the eighth. Alonso struggled defensively with three errors, but stayed composed and hit a bullet off the shortstop’s glove and into left Alonso was credited with a fielder’s choice and one RBI as both catcher Taylor Gushue and right fielder Braden Mattson came around to score on the play.
First baseman Zack Powers scored Jason Lombardozzi, who pinch ran for designated hitter A.J. Puk, with a double off the bullpen in left. Left fielder Buddy Reed’s career best third single of the game chopped over the third baseman’s head, scoring Josh Tobias, who pinch ran for Alonso.
Jordan Gore hit a solo shot to lead off the eighth off of Eric Hanhold to make it a 6-5 game, but Hanhold recovered with a strike out and a 6-3 double play to end the inning. Hanhold pitched a perfect ninth for his second save of the year. Dane Dunning (1-0) notched his first career decision and capped South Carolina’s two-run seventh, which gave the Gamecocks the 4-2 lead. South Carolina starter Will Crowe (6-2) took the loss after allowing five runs (2 ER) on 10 hits.
Starter Danny Young (2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 K) struck out Joey Pankake and forced Kyle Martin to fly out to right with the bases loaded in the second and gave up an unearned run in the first. Florida tallied two runs with some timely two-out hitting in the third. Reed started things off with a single and center fielder Harrison Bader reached safely on a two-out error. Gushueand Mattson hit consecutive singles up the middle to score Reed and Bader. Karsten Whitson (2.2, 1 H, 1 R) replaced Young to start the third.
Whitson retired five in a row and gave up his first hit on Grayson Greiner’s one-out double in the fifth. A controversial error charged to shortstop Richie Martin after the umpires changed the ruling from out to safe allowed the Gamecocks an extra out, which they used to tie the game at 2-2 on a ground out to the mound. Bobby Poyner struck out DC Arendas to end the inning and proceeded to pitch a harmless sixth before a South Carolina double ended his day and led to two runs in the seventh.