Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports

#5 Gamecocks even series with #1 Gators

A big time pitcher’s duel Saturday night in Columbia, South Carolina ended with the No. 1 Gators (37-7, 14-6) taking it on the chin and No. 5 South Carolina (34-9, 15-5 SEC)  evening the series with Florida. The two teams will settle the series Sunday at 1:30 p.m. back at Founders Park.

While Florida started junior A.J. Puk, South Carolina leaned on the freshman arm of Braden Webb. Both hurlers had stellar performances with Webb coming out on top.

Florida would get their only score of the night in the top of the second inning when junior Buddy Reed stepped to the plate with one out and drilled a line drive home run over the right field wall. It was Reed’s fourth homer of the season and he got all of it on the laser shot.

From then on, the Gators couldn’t muster anyone home.

South Carolina would answer Reed’s solo shot in the bottom half of the same stanza when Dom Thompson-Williams doubled to lead off and he was brought home by a one out single from LT Tolbert.

Puk would then finish the second and pitch his way through trouble a couple of times through six complete innings of ball, striking out 10 and walking three on a night where the home plate umpire was questioned over and over by both teams about the strike zone. It was the third time this season that Puk has struck out at least 10 batters. He has six double digit strike out games in his career.

But, Webb and reliever Tyler Johnson held the Gators to one run and stole the show from Puk as they combined to hold the Gators to six hits in eight innings with just the one earned run. Webb would throw 104 pitches on the night through 7.1 innings before Johnson came on with two on and one out in the eighth and would finish the Gators off. The two combined for 10 strike outs of the Florida batters.

“I thought both starting pitchers were outstanding, relief pitching for both teams was really good,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “It came down to one pitch, we just didn’t locate. Those things happen. It’s baseball.”

The difference in the game would be a one-out, solo home run from the Gamecock’s Gene Cone in the bottom of the seventh off of reliever Kirby Snead. Cone was the only batter that Snead allowed to reach base in his 1.1 innings pitched. Florida freshman Brady Singer would pitch the last two outs for Florida on the night.

We have seen it a few times this year where the Florida bats went silent while the pitching tried to win the game. Saturday was another one of those nights. Freshman Deacon Liput was the only gator to have multiple hits as he went 2-for-4 with two singles.

“We just didn’t put together enough good at bats,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s really that simple. You’ve got to credit South Carolina’s pitchers, they did a nice job. We just got six hits, neither team made an error, wasn’t a whole lot of walks on either side – I think each team had three.

“We’ve just got to be a little more consistent offensively. It’s really that simple. I know the arms are really good in this league and I knew tonight was not going to be easy, but you give up two runs on the road over eight innings, you’ve got to figure out a way to score three or four. Just grind it out a little bit more.”

The loss was the first by the Gators to the Gamecocks in the last eight outings between the two and the teams will settle things Sunday when Florida starter Alex Faedo (8-1, 3.32) will match up against Adam Hill (6-0, 2.57) at 1:30 p.m. The game will be shown on-line on SEC Network+.   




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