Florida squeezes by South Carolina for series

Harrison Bader only stepped in the batter's box four times Friday. But for his last at-bat in the eighth, he squared up for what coach Kevin O'Sullivan would pin as the freshman's biggest career hit to date. Josh Tobias had just pinched South Carolina's lead to 3-2 with his groundout RBI. But it was Bader who set UF over the top with his two-out, two-run single to nab the 4-3 win and series.

On a 1-1 count hurled by Gamecocks left-hander Adam Westmoreland, Florida's starting leftfielder cranked in Vickash Ramjit and Justin Shafer to secure the lead.

"He was attacking and I was just trying to get a pitch to handle," Bader said of Westmoreland.

Prior to the eighth, Westmoreland had retired nine Gators straight once he got into his grove in the fourth inning after assuming the hill for starter Jordan Montgomery. O'Sullivan said he anticipated difficultly at the hands of South Carolina's senior, 6'5, 270-pound senior when the Gamecocks went to their bullpen.

"It was a heck of a college baseball game," O'Sullivan said. "I knew once they went to Westmoreland, he was going to be tight."

Florida's head coach praised Bader's tenacity at the plate, as Bader wasn't especially productive early on in the night. He did post a one-out single for his first at-bat and stole second base to make him UF's stolen base leader with eight. Westmoreland pegged Bader in the fourth, but then the freshman flew out to lead off the seventh.

"The game is funny that way — how it always seems to come back to you," O'Sullivan said. "He hung in there. The only at-bat people remember is the last one."

Friday's win for Florida was their second close snag of the series. The Gators came back swinging after the Gamecocks had tied the game for a final 3-2 victory Thursday.

"We're not going to go down with a fight," second baseman Casey Turgeon said. "Bader got a huge hit there in the eighth inning and that's what happened."

While the late at-bats for Florida were especially crucial, O'Sullivan said the unsung heroes of the matchup were the pitchers. UF started freshman left-hander Danny Young on the hill who had what UF's head coach called an "odd" first inning of work. He allowed three hits in eight pitches but South Carolina scored no runs thanks to Florida's solid defense. The freshman pitched into the fifth inning before Mike Vinson replaced him.

O'Sullivan said he was proud with how Young competed during his outing.

"He just hung in there," O'Sullivan said. "I think this is a game he can really grow from and learn a lot from. Even though you give up some hits, as long as you keep pounding the ball in the strike zone, your guys are going to play good defense behind you and you've got a chance."

Florida chalked up a total of five pitchers in the game: Young, Vinson, Bobby Poyner, Aaron Rhodes and Johnny Magliozzi. Magliozzi was set to start Saturday's 3 p.m.series finale, but because he closed both Thursday and Friday, the Gators will turn to a starting pitcher who is still to be determined.

Friday's win puts the Gators' record at an even 18-18 (7-7 in the SEC).

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