COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 1 Florida stunned the home crowd on Friday night at Founders Park, hitting a pair of ninth-inning home runs to come from behind and beat No. 7 South Carolina 5-4 in game one of the weekend series. With the win, the Gators (37-6, 14-5 SEC) and Gamecocks (33-9, 14-5 SEC) are tied atop the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division standings.
South Carolina took an early lead and held off the Gators as long as they could. After a scoreless eighth frame, Florida trailed 4-3 with the bottom half of the order due up and just three outs remaining.
That's all they needed.
Freshman Jonathan India stepped to the plate and launched a ball into the left field seats to tie the game 4-4 with his second home run of the season. After a pair of fly outs, Nick Horvath – who entered the game as a pinch runner in the seventh – squared a ball up and sent it deep to left to quiet the home crowd and give the Gators a 5-4 lead.
Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan sent closer Shaun Anderson to the mound in the ninth to finish off the Gamecocks. After a leadoff single, Anderson induced a 6-4-3 double play to wipe out the runner.
The final hope for USC, Dom Thompson-Williams sent a ball deep to left field but Nelson Maldonado had just enough room to make the catch on the warning track and send the fans home in shock.
Florida starter Logan Shore (4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER) kept the Gators in the game early despite giving up a pair of home runs and reliever Dane Dunning (3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R) pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win.
The Gamecocks got on the board first, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the opening inning. After designated hitter John Jones drew a two-out walk, left fielder Alex Destino hit his fifth home run of the season.
Both pitchers settled in for the next few innings but the Gamecocks struck again in the fifth. Catcher Chris Cullen gave USC a 3-0 lead with a home run to left field.
Florida responded in the next frame and cut the lead to 3-2 with a pair of runs. After Deacon Liput reached on an error, designated hitter JJ Schwarz came to the plate and blasted a ball into the stands to pull the Gators within one.
In the bottom half of the sixth, South Carolina extended the lead again. Jonah Bride led off with a double to right field and scored on Cullen's double down the left field line to give USC a 4-2 advantage.
Florida answered again in the seventh after Mike Rivera got on base with a one-out walk. Nelson Maldonado advanced him to second with his second hit of the night and pinch hitter Jeremy Vasquez brought him home with a single to center field to cut the deficit back to one run.
The Gators and Gamecocks will meet tomorrow at 7 p.m., with junior left-hander A.J. Puk (2-2, 3.07) squaring off against USC freshman right-hander Braden Webb (8-2, 3.28). Jeff Cardozo and Mick Hubert have the call on the Gator IMG Sports Network and the game will be shown live on SEC Network+.