Gamecocks Win, but Not Without Controversy

Neither side wanted the controversy around Sunday's series finale, but it was difficult to avoid. Despite an early three-run deficit, No. 4 South Carolina bounced back to hold the Gators (21-4/4-2 SEC) scoreless over the last seven innings and win the series with a 4-3 victory.

The controversy began with the game already tied at three in the sixth inning. The Gators loaded the bases with no outs on two walks and a single by Mike Zunino. Josh Adams hit a dribbler to third base where Adrian Morales threw home to get the force out. Brian Johnson was the runner at third, and replays showed him sliding straight into home plate. Johnson's cleat clipped South Carolina catcher Brady Thomas, who fell straight to the ground.

Home plate umpire Jack Cox ruled that Johnson went out of his way to hit Thomas, and the play was called a double play, calling Adams out. The runners were also forced to return to first and second with two outs, and Zack Powers struck out after it to end the inning.

"I've got no comment," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I don't know what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to slide into the plate, but I'm not supposed to comment on the umpires."

The controversy didn't end there.

In the eighth inning after Adam Matthews hit a leadoff double to right-center field for South Carolina, Peter Mooney was trying to bunt him over. Florida reliever Tommy Toledo bounced a pitch in the dirt, and Mooney tossed his bat to the Gamecocks dugout and ran to first base. The umpire also said that the pitch hit him, but replays showed the ball bouncing in front of his foot and then making it to Zunino behind the plate.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., used a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up. The Gators intentionally walked Christian Walker, but Toledo walked Morales after him to score the run that would eventually give the Gamecocks the win.

The Florida offense had only itself to blame after not being able to scratch across a run after the third inning. The three runs early came on an RBI single by Kamm Washington and a squeeze play by Adams. Powers lined a single to left field to score the third run and give the Gators an early 3-0 cushion.

The Gamecocks went to the bullpen in the next inning and gave the ball to Colby Holmes, who went three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and three walks. He kept the Florida hitters off balance while putting zeros on the scoreboard to keep his team in the game.

"I think the difference in the ball game was when they brought in Holmes," O'Sullivan said. "We didn't score or put any pressure on them really."

Karsten Whitson had the best outing since the first weekend of the season. The freshman worked five innings, allowing one run, two hits and two walks while recording five strikeouts. O'Sullivan thought about leaving Whitson in the game, but the entire Florida bullpen was saved after a blowout loss on Friday and a complete game by Hudson Randall on Saturday.

The bullpen that was huge during the LSU series last weekend wasn't the same. It walked four South Carolina hitters in four innings of work and allowed three hits and three runs.

"We walked too many guys," O'Sullivan said. "The two walks in the sixth inning ended up scoring, and that's what hurt us in the end."

The middle of the Florida order struggled all weekend. Preston Tucker, Austin Maddox, Brian Johnson and Ben McMahan manned the 3-5 spots in some combination during the three games, and the four players combined to go 2-for-25 on the weekend, with both hits coming on Maddox singles Friday night.

It was the first Florida dropped a conference series at home since losing two out of three to Ole Miss April 17-19, 2009.

The Gators have to regroup fast before facing No. 7 Florida State on Tuesday night in at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. O'Sullivan said he was unsure of who would get the start on the mound for Florida.


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