Josh Reagan took the mound with a 3-4 lead in the top of the ninth. Reagan, the SEC saves leader (11), boasted a 0.82 ERA and batters were hitting just .144 against him. The South Carolina (33-9, 14-5 SEC) closer has been unhittable in 2016, but Florida missed that memo.
Jonathan India’s lead off home run tied the game and sophomore transfer Nick Horvath, who entered the game as a pinch runner in the seventh, gave Florida its first lead of the game with another solo blast. Florida held on to the lead, turning to Shaun Anderson in the ninth to close the game down, 5-4.
“This is probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been apart of,” Shore said on the SEC Network post game broadcast. “This is a team win.”
Florida (37-6,14-5 SEC) turned to Friday night ace Logan Shore, a week removed from setting a school record for consecutive wins, but Shore didn’t have his stuff Friday. The right-hander earned two quick out and went 0-2 on John Jones before issuing a free pass. Alex Destino made Shore pay when he hung a breaking ball, depositing it into the bleachers in right field. Shore gave up another home run, of the solo variety, in the fifth. Shore had given up just two home runs before his start Friday night.
“I wasn’t feeling it tonight,” Shore said. “I just didn’t have it. It’s going to happen every once in a while.”
Shore settled down, but Gamecock starter Clark Schmidt was throwing seven different kinds of smoke at the Florida bats. Schmidt walked Guthrie to start the game and promptly retired the next six batters he faced before Nelson Maldonado singled to start the third. Schmidt stranded Maldonado and retired 11 in a row.
Deacon Liput broke up the streak when he reached on a fielding error and JJ Schwarz made South Carolina pay. Florida’s slugger blasted the first pitch he saw deep into the left field bleachers to cut South Carolina’s lead to 3-2.
The Gamecocks answered with a run of their own in the sixth to seemingly keep the Gators at bay. Jeremy Vasquez’s pinch-hit in the seventh scored Mike Rivera, trimming the lead to 4-3 before the ninth inning fireworks.
“That was incredible,” said Shore. “We’ve always know Nick’s a good hitter but to come through there with two outs in the top of the ninth, incredible.”
The win ties Florida and South Carolina atop the SEC with dueling 14-5 conference records. Florida will look to take the series and an outright lead in the SEC on Saturday night at 7 p.m.