Florida entered the bottom of the sixth inning locked in a 4-4 tie with South Carolina on Sunday.
By the start of the seventh, the Gators were ahead 14-4.
Florida (19-18, 8-7 SEC) rode its biggest inning since April 2nd of 2005 to secure a 14-5 victory against No. 8 South Carolina, earning a series sweep of the Gamecocks (27-10, 8-7 SEC) and its fifth consecutive win.
“Any time that you get a sweep against anybody in this league, it’s a great weekend,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said afterwards.
The Gators’ sweep was the first in conference play this year, and undoubtedly puts them back on college baseball’s radar. It’s still too early to pencil in Florida as a postseason contender, but for a team who was all but left for dead a few weeks ago, O’Sullivan’s team is starting to show signs of life.
“This is definitely a big step forward for us,” senior Vickash Ramjit said. “We’ve been working hard all year, and we feel like that work is starting to pay off for us.”
Ramjit was a catalyst for Florida’s monstrous sixth inning-outburst, as the first baseman led off the frame with a double down the left field line.
Connor Mitchell would move Ramjit over to third on a single, and after a Harrison Bader walk to load the bases, Ramjit was crossing home following a pinch-hit single by Josh Tobias.
The run gave Florida a 5-4 lead, and although the bases remained loaded with no outs, few could have predicted just how many times the Gators would score in the inning.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Ramjit said. Added O’Sullivan: “It was just one of those odd innings, in the sixth, that we really put some good swings on the ball, found some holes and put runs together.”
Mitchell, Bader and Tobias would eventually score. As would the players who batted them in — Casey Turgeon and Richie Martin.
Justin Shafer decided to get in on the fun with a two-RBI double before Vickash Ramjit knocked a double of his own — his second of the inning. A few batters later, Ramjit was again crossing home plate, marking the tenth and final run of the inning.
The Gators cycled through four South Carolina pitchers in the inning, demoralizing the Gamecocks’ hurlers almost immediately after each took the mound.
Like Carolina, the Gators would use a grand total of six pitchers in the game, with Shafer leading the way. Following a slow start by Jay Carmichael — who is coming off a recent injury — and a relief appearance by Bobby Poyner, Shafer took the mound in the third inning.
Despite giving up the tying run, Shafer was solid on the afternoon, striking out three Gamecocks in as many innings. Daniel Gibson was credited with the win after pitching 1.2 scoreless innings.
“We got a lot of contributions from a lot of different people in the lineup,” O’Sullivan said. “We used six different pitchers and I thought everybody did their job. We walked more guys than we’re accustomed to, but overall, it was a great team victory and a great team weekend.”
Sunday marked the second time in a week the Gators used an offensive explosion to propel them towards victory; the Gators put up eight runs in an inning last Sunday against Mississippi State.
While the pouring on of runs is nice, O’Sullivan said it’s not something anyone should get used to.
“Hitting’s contagious … it’s one of those things that just happens, you don’t see it very often.”
Holding a winning record for the first time since February, the Gators may now be in possession of something that seemingly eluded the team all season — confidence.
Florida has a chance to continue its win streak this week, albeit on the road. The Gators head to Fort Meyers, Fla. on Tuesday for a matchup against FGCU — who swept UF at home earlier this season — before traveling to Columbia, Mo. to take on the Missouri Tigers (12-19, 4-10 SEC).
No matter how many wins the Gators ultimately wind up with this week however, there’s no doubt that this Florida team may indeed be trending upward.
“We’ve been through some tough times earlier in the year,” O’Sullivan said. “I think we’re starting to grow up a little bit.”