BASEBALL: Carolina Takes First Game From UF

A good old fashioned pitchers duel between Carolina's Aaron Rawl and Florida's Bryan Ball broke out at The Mac Friday night but unfortunately for the Gators, South Carolina took a 2-0 win on a six-hit shutout in game one of a three-game SEC series.

Due to the quality of the pitching, both teams had limited opportunities to push runs across the plate. Carolina (19-3, 2-2) took advantage of theirs, while the Gators left theirs on the field, and they knew it.

Both teams left plenty of runners on base. Carolina left eight, while the Gators left nine on the base paths. Florida had runners in scoring position five different times during the contest, including twice with no outs, but failed to score.

Jeff Corsaletti led off the bottom of the first with a double to center. Second baseman Adam Davis sacrificed him over to third, but Rawl struck out Matt LaPorta and Brian LeClerc to end the threat.

In the eighth, Rawl walked left fielder Gavin Dickey to start the inning. Corsaletti followed with a single to the gap in right field. Dickey advanced to third, but rather than risk an out at home, third base Coach Tim Parenton applied the stop sign. Sending Dickey would have made for a very close play at the plate, and as Corsaletti and Coach Pat McMahon pointed out afterwards, Florida had the heart of the lineup coming to the plate with no outs. South Carolina Coach Ray Tanner went to the bullpen and called upon Jason Fletcher to get them out of the jam. Fletcher sent the next three Gators down in order to help the Gamecocks escape.

"We didn't execute," a perturbed Corsaletti said afterwards "We have got to get that run in. We practice that everyday. The whole team needs to step it up."

The two pitching staffs' combined for 21 strikeouts while allowing two earned runs and three walks. Ball (5-1) matched Rawl (5-2) pitch for pitch through the first six innings. Both worked quickly. In fact, Ball didn't allow ball three to any Carolina hitter until the sixth. He consistently stayed ahead of hitters until he began to tire. Ball pitched 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs, while striking out seven. He walked only one batter, and that was to lead off the seventh.

Connor Falkenbach, Stephen Porter, and Darren O'Day worked the final 2-1/3 innings. The three Florida pitchers held South Carolina scoreless and allowed just two hits while striking out two in relief.

South Carolina shortstop Steven Tolleson struck out four times in the game, twice against Ball and once each against Falkenbach and O'Day. Coming into the game, Tolleson had struck out only five times in 21 games.

Rawl mixed up his pitches well using a hard curveball to help keep Florida batters at bay. He struck out six in the first three innings of the game. He allowed just five hits and struck out nine Gators.

"He's a senior," said Corsaletti of Rawl. "He's been one of their top pitchers for the past three years. Anytime that you can locate three pitches like that, you're going to be successful in this league. He did the job, but we had chances."

Carolina scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh when Ball began to tire after going deep in the pitch count. He had thrown nearly 90 pitches when he walked Michael Campbell to start the inning. Brendan Winn sacrificed him over with a bunt. Third baseman Tommy King then ripped a double down the left field line to score Campbell. Catcher Cory Vanderhook then fouled out to right. With two out, left fielder Davy Gregg then singled to right field, scoring King.

There was a chance for Coach McMahon to go with a lefty vs. lefty matching to help get out of the inning, but the Florida coach saved Stephen Porter for the ninth inning when he came on to help snuff out a potential firestorm.

Carolina had two men on the bases with nobody out in the top of the ninth. King hit a sharp ball to Adam Davis at second whose perfect throw to the plate got the first out. One batter later, Porter came on and got Gregg to hit a comebacker to the mound. He made the play to the plate to nail the runner coming home.

Davis had perhaps his best defensive game of the season. He had a great relay in a third to second to first double play, taking the throw from Steven Barton and unloading in time to get the runner at first. On another play he robbed Chris Brown of a single when he ranged up the middle to track down a sharply hit bouncer, applied the brakes and gunned a throw to first.

The loss dropped the Gators to 17-7 overall, 1-3 in the SEC. The Gators get two more chances to even their SEC record at Carolina's expense with games on Saturday (4 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) at The Mac.

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