Big inning gives Florida the sweep

The frustration from the early season struggles was released in one inning on Saturday. The Gators already had the series win over South Carolina clinched, but they weren't done. Florida pounded eight hits while scoring 10 runs in one inning for the first time since 2005 to finish off the series sweep. The Gators ran off with a 14-5 win over the Gamecocks because of that sixth inning.

The first ten hitters for the Gators reached base in the sixth inning. All ten of those scored the runs. Florida combined for 32 hits on the weekend with 28 of them coming as singles. They saved the extra base hits for the sixth inning, as Vickash Ramjit doubled twice and Justin Shafer added one of his own.

Once the bases were loaded with no outs and no runs across, Florida decided to make a change, allowing Josh Tobias to pinch hit for Cody Dent. Tobias started the scoring with an RBI single. Casey Turgeon and Richie Martin followed with RBI singles of their own. After a pitch hit Taylor Gushue to reload the bases, Shafer drove his double in the left-center field gap to score two for Florida (19-18/8-7 SEC).

Ramjit's second double scored one more run, and Connor Mitchell used an RBI ground out to score another. The final run came across on a sacrifice fly by Harrison Bader.

And after ten runs, eight hits and four South Carolina pitchers, the inning finally came to a close.

"It was one of those odd innings," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "You can't really put your finger on it. You get some momentum and some balls drop and find their way through. Hitting is contagious. It just happens, but you don't see it very often. We put some good swings together."

The Gators got together in the third base dugout for a meeting before the inning. South Carolina tied the game at four in the top half of the inning, and the meeting was about responding. An RBI fielder's choice gave the Gamecocks their fourth run of the game. O'Sullivan wanted to make sure his team wasn't content to settle for just two wins on the weekend.

They wanted more. Part of the maturing process for a young team is finding its killer instinct, and O'Sullivan wanted the Gators to show that in the bottom of the sixth. They responded with the ten runs.

"We just talked about battling," senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit said. "They put up a run, so then we came out and put up ten. Nobody wanted to be that out. It took a while for them to get one."

The start of the game made it feel like it would be a typical third game of a college baseball series, usually including plenty of pitchers and a long game. Justin Shafer changed that for Florida.

Jay Carmichael got the start and was reliever by Bobby Poyner after just 1.2 innings, but the duo struggled, allowing three runs in 2.1 innings. O'Sullivan wanted to slow the game down and trust an experienced pitcher to get some outs. That's when he went to Shafer.

The sophomore tossed three innings, allowing just one run and striking out three hitters. He wasn't perfect, but he got through the middle innings of the game and let the back end of the Florida bullpen take the rest.

"I came in trying to throw strikes and keep us in the game," Shafer said.

O'Sullivan knew what he was getting.

"We did that against Florida State on Tuesday," said O'Sullivan of when Shafer threw 1.2 innings in Tallahassee. "He was our bridge guy to the last three innings (on Saturday). He did a nice job of it at Florida State and did a nice job of it today. It's nice to have a guy with experience that throws strikes that you know will come in there and settle things down.

The Florida pitching staff gave up base runners during the series but didn't give up runs, causing South Carolina to strand 32 runners over the weekend. It's not ideal, but the Florida pitchers are starting to grow up and be comfortable in those situations.

"You don't do that often," O'Sullivan said. "You'll either go gray or bald because every pitch is a meaningful pitch."

The win also secured Florida's first sweep of the season and second Southeastern Conference series win, including one against Ole Miss two weeks ago. The schedule the rest of the way gets much easier, starting with a trip to Missouri next weekend, so building momentum with a sweep over a talented rival was important for the team.

"To get a sweep in this league is very difficult, especially against a team the quality of South Carolina," O'Sullivan said. "You go into every weekend with the goal of winning the series, but when you have an opportunity to sweep a series, it doesn't happen often. You've got to play good baseball on that last day because you don't get those opportunities very often."

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