No. 2 Gators Eliminate South Carolina

With elimination a possibility on Friday, the Gators put together a complete effort against No. 8 South Carolina to eliminate the defending national champions from the SEC Tournament. Florida got a complete game out of junior left-hander Brian Johnson, while the offense pounded out eleven hits and led the Gators to a 7-2 win over the Gamecocks to advance to the semifinals.

Johnson started out strong on the mound and got better as the game wore on. The junior left-hander allowed five hits and two runs while not walking a hitter and striking out five to throw his first complete game at Florida. His previous career long was seven innings, set during his start at Auburn last weekend.

Johnson ended his strong outing with just 89 pitches on the night.

"He was incredible tonight," Florida volunteer assistant coach Don Norris said on the post game radio show. "He didn't have to use his changeup, and it was mostly fastballs. It helps when your team gets runs early and you can attack the other team without worrying about pitching too much."

Even when Johnson did get in trouble, he quickly found a way out. South Carolina started the sixth inning with back-to-back singles by Tanner English and Chase Vergason, but Johnson induced a double play ball from Joey Pankake and a fly out from Evan Marzilli to escape the inning with only one run allowed.

After getting two quick outs in the ninth, Marzilli doubled and Christian Walker singled to score him to give the Gamecocks their second and final run.

"His curveball and slider were outstanding," Norris said of Brian Johnson. He was getting a lot of outs early in the count, so he didn't get many strikeouts, but he was blowing them away late in the game. It was good to see."

While Johnson was cruising on the mound, the offense posted its fifth game with double-digit hits in the last six.

Mike Zunino had an RBI ground out in the first inning and freshman Josh Tobias used an RBI single in the second inning to give the Gators an early 2-0 lead.

Zunino struck again with a two-run home run in the third inning to push the lead to 4-0.

"We swung the bats really well tonight," Norris said. "We were aggressive with fastballs. They threw fastballs in the zone to us, and we were ready to hit them. That's the key."

After Johnson walked with the bases loaded to score one run in the fifth inning, the freshman theme continued on offense. Casey Turgeon had a two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth to push the lead to 7-0.

"We had to be more aggressive and ready to hit," Norris said. "I don't think we were ready to hit last night. We were not attacking the pitcher. Tonight, we attacked more. We were in a good position to hit and attack pitches instead of being passive and letting him be the aggressor."

Johnson's complete game also secured that the bullpen would be rested for Florida's Saturday game against Vanderbilt. Steven Rodriguez and Austin Maddox are rested after throwing in Tuesday's win against Auburn.

Sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson will get the start on Saturday for the Gators. First pitch is estimated for 4:30 p.m.

"We think we have as much pitching left in the tournament as anybody, especially after losing a game last night," Norris said. "We're really confident with our pitching staff right now.

"If we just keep swinging the bats, we're going to have a chance to be here Sunday and win this thing."

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