South Carolina Hands Gators First SEC Loss

The matchup of ace left-handers Brian Johnson and Michael Roth was supposed to be a nail biter until the final innings. Instead, No. 4 South Carolina used a four-run third inning to put the game away. The Gamecocks (17-4, 3-1) continued to tack on runs, beating No. 1 Florida 9-2 on Friday night in front of 5,586 at McKethan Stadium.

"We gave up four in that third inning, and it just got their bats rolling," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said of his team's first home SEC loss since April 23, 2010 to Arkansas. "They just outplayed us in every phase. They out-pitched us. They out-hit us."

Johnson (4-1) gave up three base runners in his first two innings of work, but he pitched out of two jams and kept his team in the game. In the third inning, the floodgates opened.

Adam Matthews started the inning with a triple and scored when Peter Mooney followed with an RBI single. Jackie Bradley, Jr. singled to right field after him, and the bases were loaded with no outs after Christian Walker reached on an error by Florida third baseman Tyler Palmer.

After Adrian Morales' RBI ground out to first base, Brady Thomas singled up the middle to score two more runs and give the Gamecocks a 4-0 lead halfway through the third inning.

"They knew (Johnson) throws strikes, and they were aggressive early," Florida catcher Mike Zunino said. "They saw him throwing balls over the plate, and they attacked it. When they saw a ball up, they hit it well."

The early cushion was more than enough for Roth (5-1). The junior threw 8.1 innings, giving up ten hits, two walks and two runs. He recorded six strikeouts while pounding the strike zone with 71 of his 110 pitches for strikes.

Roth moved his fastball wherever he wanted to keep hitters from getting comfortable. The low angle of his arm made it tough for left-handed hitters to pick up on what he was throwing. He used the fastball in on right-handers to keep them from leaning over the plate, and the junior threw his off-speed pitches low and away to right-handers to keep them from locking in.

"He made us reach in hitters counts and kept us off balance a lot," Florida second baseman Josh Adams said. "We didn't make any adjustments. He threw a lot of balls down in the zone, and a lot of guys couldn't see the ball well. We had to see the ball up, and we didn't. That's what it came down to."

South Carolina poured on more runs in the sixth inning. Jake Williams led off with a home run over the left field bleachers, and Robert Beary followed with a double down the left field line. After Scott Wingo used a sacrifice bunt to move him to third, Matthews walked to put Florida in a tougher situation.

O'Sullivan lifted Johnson, bringing in senior reliever Matt Campbell. Mooney welcomed him with a double to score Beary. Bradley's RBI groundout and Walker's RBI single pushed the Gamecocks' advantage to 8-0 in the sixth inning, and as the crowd poured out of the stadium at the end of the inning, Florida's chances of a comeback went with them.

"There's nothing to say," Adams said of what he'll say to his team as the only senior in the starting lineup. "Everybody knows that's embarrassing."

The Gators and Gamecocks will continue the series Saturday at 7 p.m. Florida hasn't lost a home conference series since dropping one to Ole Miss in 2009, and the Gators must win the next two games to avoid dropping one to South Carolina.

Sophomore Hudson Randall (3-0, 0.85) has been the stopper on the pitching staff throughout his career, and the right-hander will be counted on to do just that on Saturday. South Carolina will start junior left-hander Steven Neff (2-0, 2.49).

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