The Florida Gators (38-20) got off their mini two-game SEC losing streak with a dominating 7-2 victory over South Carolina (42-16) on Thursday. The win not only kept Florida alive in the SEC Tournament but also sent the Gamecocks packing from Hoover, Alabama.
Freshman left-hander A.J. Puk earned the start for Florida but quickly found trouble in what looked like it would be a repeat performance from the Kentucky game a night ago. After sitting down the Gamecocks in order in the first, Puk allowed a leadoff double to Joey Pankake, who scored two batters later on a Tanner English double.
Puk would work out of the trouble, but surrendered another run in the third inning off of an absolute bomb of a home run lifted over the center field wall by Kyle Martin.
Puk settled down, throwing four innings and striking out five in what turned out to be a very impressive start for his SEC Tournament debut.
The Gator offense got things going in the third inning. Justin Shafer and Josh Tobias grounded out and flew out to start the inning before Casey Turgeon and the tp of the order got a two-out rally going.
Turgeon singled and Martin reached first on a fielding error by the pitcher. Harrison Bader took a ball off the knee to load the bases for Taylor Gushue. Gushue, the current SEC player of the week, kept swinging his hot bat, singling up the middle to tie the game at two. Braden Mattson followed up his battering mate with a squeeze bunt to score Bader, the go-ahead and eventual winning run.
That one-run lead is all the Florida pitching staff would need. Bobby Poyner came in to relieve Puk in the fifth inning and Florida’s opening day starter threw a gem (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K, 56 pitches).
Florida extended their lead, giving Poyner a cushion to work with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to Turgeon and Martin RBI singles. Josh Tobias smacked his third home run of the season in the seventh inning to give Florida a 6-1 lead and Turgeon added his third hit and second RBI of the game in the eight to give us a final score of 7-2.
Florida will have another quick turnaround as they prepare for their second elimination game in as many days on Friday against the loser of No. 5 seed Mississippi State and No. 9 seed Kentucky.
Post Game quotes and Notes provided by GatorZone.com
Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan
“That was a well played game by both sides. It was a clean game on both sides. We were just fortunate there to score a couple two-out runs. We put some good at bats together. We have kind of won that way the whole year. We got contributions from everyone up and down the lineup. We played fairly clean but it was a good game by both teams.”
Junior Taylor Gushie, C
“We didn’t play the game we wanted to yesterday. Coming back into today, we needed to get some specific jobs done. We needed to get back to playing our game of baseball. I think we did a good job of that today.”
Junior Bobby Poyner, LHP
“I thought today was a really good learning experience for our guys. Going into tournament play, this is something no one in this club with freshman had experienced. Today was good and I really thought we handled it well.”
- With today’s win over No. 6 South Carolina, the Gators are now 15-8 against Top 25 teams this season, including a 10-3 record against Top 10 opponents.
- Florida improved to 4-1 against the Gamecocks in 2014. UF won 2-of-3 games in Columbia earlier this season.
- After today’s result, Florida is 3-4 all-time against South Carolina in the SEC Tournament.
- Nine of the 11 Gator players reached base in today’s game.
- Taylor Gushue collected his 68th hit and 48th RBI of the season today. He leads the club in both categories.
- Richie Martin scored his team-leading 47th run of season in the bottom-half of the third inning.
- Josh Tobias hit his 3rd home run of the year in the bottom-half of the sixth inning.