Florida had defeated #5 South Carolina on a game ending home run
Saturday to even a wild Southeastern Conference series at 1-1. The two
Eastern Division enemies tangled in yet another nail-biter on Sunday as
the fifth ranked Gamecocks prevailed 8-6 in 11 innings to defeat the
22nd ranked Gators before a nationally televised ESPN audience. With
the win, South Carolina took the series 2-1.
Catcher Trent Kline punched a two-run home run just over the left field
fence to give South Carolina the 8-6 advantage needed in the 11^th
inning Sunday. Florida reliever Stephen Porter had walked Harley Lail to
leadoff the inning.
The Gamecocks used the long ball throughout the day. The visitors
clubbed four home runs, led by Travis “The Gator Killer” Jones, who did
in the home team with a three run bomb that sailed a over the center
field fence to tie the contest 5-5. Jones pounded out an amazing five home runs in the series going 10 of 12 (.833) with 11 RBI’s.
Jones, a junior from Lake City (Fla) Community College should win the
Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week Award. If he does,
Florida would have played a role in each of the four weeks the award has
been given. Mississippi State catcher Ed Easley won the award after the
Bulldogs took two of three from the Gators. Florida’s Matt LaPorta has
won the award in each of the past two weeks.
Carolina took the lead in the top of the tenth. With two outs, Andrew
Crisp singled deep in the hole at short. He moved to second when Cheyne
Hurst was hit by a pitch. Jones singled and drove in Crisp to take a 6-5
However, Florida rallied and tied the game up when Matt LaPorta hit a
bouncer to third base and James Darnell’s throw to first was in the
dirt. Jon Townsend was running all the way and advanced home on the
play. LaPorta ended up at third base. Figueroa was walked on four
consecutive pitches. Brian Leclerc drew a walk to load the bases.
Unfortunately, Cody Neer punched Carolina closer Jeff Jeffords first
pitch fastball to the right fielder for the third out, which sent the
game into the 11^th inning.
South Carolina led off the scoring in the first inning with a solo home
run by second baseman James Darnell.
The Gators refused to let that go unanswered. Townsend led off the
inning with a double to center field. However, Townsend was caught
loitering off the bag and was picked off when Trent Kline threw down to
shortstop Reese Havens. Second baseman Avery Barnes followed by lacing a
single into right field. LaPorta then drew a walk on a 3-2 count. The
pair moved up on South Carolina starter Blake Cooper’s wild pitch.
Clean-up hitter Cole Figueroa hit a hard bouncer to second, scoring
Barnes. Leclerc then drove LaPorta home for Florida’s second run with a
single to left field. Hot hitting Cody Neer then punched a single into
right field. It was Neer’s sixth hit of the series (6 of 9). However,
designated hitter Bryson Barber struck out swinging to end the inning.
Florida used a stellar defensive play to end the second inning. With one
out and one man on first base, starter Billy Bullock locked into a dual
with SC shortstop Reese Havens. After securing a 1-2 count, Havens
fouled off seven pitches and took one ball before floating one off the
bat that was caught by LaPorta, who quickly tossed on to Barnes who was
covering first for the double play.
The Florida defense did it once again in the fourth. With one out and a
man on first base, Andrew Crisp ripped a ball to the center field wall.
Matt den Dekker hustled to the area and made a beautiful sliding catch
at the base of the wall. After the catch, he quickly popped up and threw
the ball to the relay man, who tossed on to LaPorta to complete the
double play. Carolina base runner Justin Smoak was so confident that the
ball would fall, he had already rounded second and was well on his way
into third base when den Dekker made the catch.
Den Dekker led off the bottom of the fourth and drew a walk. Townsend
was out on a called third strike and Barnes grounded out to first base,
which moved den Dekker to third on the play. LaPorta was intentionally
walked leaving runners on the corners. It was the 12^th time that
LaPorta has been walked this season.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner went to his bullpen and called on
southpaw Alex Farotto. However, Figueroa greeted him with a double to
give Florida a 3-1 lead.
The Gamecocks closed the gap when Travis Jones pounded a Bullock
offering over the left field fence. It was Jones’ fourth home run of the
series. Florida coach Pat McMahon called on reliever David Hurst to
replace Bullock. He too was greeted with a double, but struck out James
Darnell to end the inning. Florida led 3-2.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Farotto issued consecutive
walks to Austin Pride and Chris Petrie. Den Dekker then hit into a
fielders choice at second base. Jones looked the bouncing ball into his
glove, but failed to apply the tag to Petrie who was on the move toward
second. Jones threw on to first, but the speedy den Dekker beat out the
throw. Farotto then walked Townsend who had a full count to load the
bases. He ran the count full once again to Barnes before issuing ball
four and walking in the Gators fifth run of the game.
In fact, the Gamecocks walked a season high 12 batters.
Consequently, Billy Bullock and David Hurst were outstanding. Bullock
pitched four innings and allowed six hits and two earned runs. He didn’t
allow a walk. Hurst also pitched four complete. He allowed just five
hits and while striking out four. Hurst struck out the side in the
seventh. He gave up two singles in the ninth that scored when closer
Josh Edmondson served up a home run ball to Jones to tie the contest at
The Gators left 16 men on base. Carolina left 11 on the bases.
Jeffords (3-0) picked up the win. Porter (0-2) took the loss.
Florida (20-15, 8-4) is still a game up on South Carolina (26-7, 7-5).
At press time, Alabama was up on Vanderbilt. A Commodore loss would
leave the Gators in the SEC Eastern Division lead.
Central Florida (17-19) travels to Gainesville on Tuesday night for a
6:30pm contest against the Gators.