Gators return home for Gamecocks series

Florida's last faceoff against South Carolina went down on the biggest stage in college baseball. The College World Series set the scene for an SEC showdown where the Gamecocks emerged victorious and soon advanced to the title series against eventual victor Arizona. But less than a year later, the two SEC East teams set to square off at McKethan are far from what they were back in Omaha.

Since June, both UF (16-18/ 5-7 SEC) and USC's (27-7/ 8-4 SEC) rosters experienced hefty blows from the Major League draft. The Gamecocks entered the 2013 season in the absence of star players including left-handed hurler Michael Roth, right-handed pitcher Matt Price, infielder Christian Walker and outfielders Evan Marzilli and Adam Matthews.

"It's two different teams playing each other," Gators catcher Taylor Gushue said of this year's series. "We're definitely going to come out here expecting to win, that's for sure."

Florida clinched the regular season series versus South Carolina in Columbia last year after dropping the opener.

While the Gators have been enduring growing pains throughout the season, the Gamecocks have still remained in the rankings, coming in most recently at No. 8. The two teams will play Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. followed by a 3 p.m. finale Sunday.

The Gators will start junior RHP Jonathon Crawford (1-5, 4.37) against senior LHP Nolan Belcher (5-2, 1.70) Thursday, freshman LHP Danny Young (1-3, 3.38) against sophomore LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-0, 0.78) Friday and sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi (3-1, 2.25) will round out the series Sunday against a Gamecock starter who is still to be determined.

UF enters play against USC after securing two big road wins against top-20 teams in their victories against Florida State Tuesday (4-3) and Mississippi State (8-3) Sunday.

"At this point in the season, I think it's important for us to win as many games as we possibly can," Gushue said, "to do it against two ranked opponents is huge. To get two of those wins on the road, it's perfect. I think we're right where we need to be."

The Gamecocks are currently riding a four-game winning streak produced from their road series sweep against Tennessee and midweek take from The Citadel Tuesday. South Carolina also boasts the SEC Freshman of the Week in second baseman Max Schrock after he went 7-for-12 against the Volunteers scoring five runs and notching seven RBI. South Carolina's bats are especially productive this season as the squad is tied for first in the SEC with LSU in homeruns (28).

Crawford highlighted the threat of USC senior infielder LB Dantzler and mentioned he'd be especially careful when facing him on the hill. Dantzler ranks third in the SEC in slugging percentage at .672.

Though both teams certainly experienced draft deficits heading into this year's series, Gushue said one thing he can still expect from South Carolina is their aggression.

"They never take a pitch off," he said. "That's what they do best. We're just going to have to match their intensity on the field."

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