Florida bats stay hot in win over Gamecocks

After scoring four runs in the final two games of a series loss at Missouri, the Florida bats have woke up since returning home.

In the three games since coming back to Gainesville, the Gators have scored 48 runs on 52 hits. No. 10 Florida (27-9, 8-6) continued the hot streak on Saturday night, collecting 13 hits while pounding South Carolina 12-5.

“We’ve had good grooves early in the season, but we’re all just kind of buying into the team and having quality at-bats,” senior third baseman Josh Tobias said. “We’re swinging the bats well.”

After falling behind 2-0, the Gators got the offense going in the second inning and batted around. Tobias started it while reaching on a wild pitch on the third strike. J.J. Schwarz walked to move Tobias into scoring position, and Buddy Reed’s single scored Tobias. Two batters later, Ryan Larson grounded a single up the middle to give Florida a 2-0 lead. After Dalton Guthrie walked, Richie Martin singled up the middle to score two more and push the lead to 4-0.

The single was the last pitch before the field was tarped and a 39-minute rain delay followed.

A two-out rally in the fourth inning served as the knockout blow. Back-to-back singles by Larson and Guthrie kept the inning alive for Martin, who lined a fastball into the left field bleachers for his fourth career home run and third on the season. It gave the Gators a comfortable 7-2 lead.

“We swung the bats well,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We had a lot of good at bats. We laid off some changeups and breaking balls down in the zone early in the count, and we got into fastball counts. We didn’t try to do too much. The approach the entire night was really good.”

Dane Dunning got the start for Florida and ran into trouble in the first inning. He allowed a one-out single before South Carolina (23-13, 6-8 SEC) first baseman Kyle Martin hit a towering home run to center field, giving the Gamecocks a brief 2-0 lead. Dunning followed with three scoreless innings before he was pulled and left-hander A.J. Puk entered in the fifth inning with Florida leading 7-2.

The plan was for Dunning and Puk to combine for nine innings, but Puk started to slow down in the eighth inning. Sophomore Kirby Snead came on to get the final six outs.

“Dunning was solid, Puk was solid,” O’Sullivan said. “We pitched well. For the most part, I thought we did pitch really well.”

The Gators go for the sweep on Sunday at 12 p.m. Neither team has announced a starting pitcher.

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