"They're one of the toughest teams we've played all year," South Carolina ace Michael Roth said. "(They're) one of the best hitting teams we've faced. It's going to come down to pitching and defense, and we're both pretty good at that."
Monday's championship series opener will see South Carolina freshman Forrest Koumas (6-1, 3.07) against Florida sophomore Hudson Randall (11-3, 2.24). It will be the second time the two have faced off this season. The same pitching matchup happened on March 26 in the second game of the series.
It was the first start of Koumas' career, and he didn't disappoint. He went six innings, allowing just two hits (both singles), two walks and one unearned run. The freshman also struck out six batters. South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner pulled him after six innings despite only being at 76 pitches, expecting closer Matt Price to keep the Gators off the board the rest of the game.
Florida outfielder Kamm Washington, who has since announced that he would transfer, blasted Price's first pitch into the left field bleachers to give the Gators a 2-1 lead they would hold onto.
Koumas didn't pick up the win, but it was one of his best starts of the year.
"I had pretty good success moving the fastball in and out," Koumas said. "I'm probably going to keep that same approach (on Monday). It's good to know that I've had success against them."
Randall had one of his best outings of the year against the Gamecocks. He threw a complete game, allowing five hits and one unearned run on just 95 pitches, while throwing 73 for strikes. The one run he allowed scored on a throwing error from third baseman Jeff Moyer.
After the game, Tanner became the first SEC coach to compare Randall to former Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux, because of the sophomore's ability to locate and change speeds. Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard made the same comparison after Randall threw eight shutout innings against the Crimson Tide in the SEC Tournament.
The regular season start for Randall means the Gamecocks will see him Monday for the second time this season.
"I don't know that it helps a heck of a lot, because most of the time you've seen him you haven't been very successful," Tanner said. "You don't have a lot of great memories to go back to."
The only blowout of the early season series was the Friday night game. The Gamecocks hit Florida starter Brian Johnson hard, scoring seven runs on eight hits against him in 5.1 innings.
While Johnson struggled, Roth was in command. He threw 8.1 innings, giving up ten hits and two runs. South Carolina shortstop Peter Mooney, whose older brother, Mike, played for the Gators, had three hits and scored three runs.
Sunday's decisive game saw South Carolina starter Bryan Harper last only two innings, giving up three runs as Florida took an early 3-0 lead as Kamm Washington and Zack Powers used RBI singles and Josh Adams dropped down a squeeze bunt.
Freshman starting pitcher Karsten Whitson gave the Gators five innings, allowing two hits and one run while striking out five.
The Gamecocks tied it in the sixth inning when Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana made an error to let the first run score, and South Carolina third baseman Adrian Morales used an RBI ground out to cut the Florida lead to 3-2. Jake Williams then tied the game at three with an RBI single.
South Carolina took a 4-3 lead when Tommy Toledo walked Morales with the bases loaded. The Gamecocks wouldn't look back, as they took a series on the road from the team then ranked No. 1 in the country.
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