Gators Take Opener in Columbia

Florida sophomore right-hander Billy Bullock matched a career high with seven strikeouts over 5.1 innings in relief to propel the No. 22-ranked Gators to a 9-3 victory over No. 12 South Carolina in front of 4,861 fans on Friday night at Sarge Frye Field.

UF's (28-16/13-9 SEC) third-straight win marked its first triumph of the year in the initial game of a road weekend series and improved Kevin O'Sullivan's squad to 8-8 against ranked teams.

Bullock notched his first win since March 28 against LSU by limiting the Gamecocks (31-15/11-11 SEC) to two runs after taking over for freshman Tommy Toledo and was supported by a UF offense that received five multiple-hit outings and totaled 12 hits. Sophomore Cole Figueroa and senior Brandon McArthur were a combined 5-for-8 with five RBI and junior Avery Barnes was 2-for-4 with three runs and a pair of stolen bases from the leadoff spot.

An RBI single in the first inning by Figueroa off junior Mike Cisco (5-3) gave the visitors a quick lead. Barnes opened the game with an infield single and moved into scoring position with his team-leading 20th theft. With Barnes running, Figueroa sliced a 3-2 offering through the left side to help UF draw first blood.

The Gamecocks tied the game in the bottom of the stanza on an infield single by junior James Darnell. Freshman Whit Merrifield and junior Justin Smoak delivered back-to-back one-out singles off Toledo for runners on the corners. After Darnell's hit knotted the game at a run apiece, Toledo caught senior Phil Disher looking on strikes and had senior Harley Lail fly out to left field.

UF plated three runs on six hits in the third for a 4-1 advantage. Sophomore Buddy Munroe stroked a single down the right-field line and the Gators successfully executed a hit-and-run as Barnes notched his second hit for runners at first and third with one out. Freshman Josh Adams drove in Munroe with a grounder and Figueroa collected his second RBI of the night with a flare into left field. McArthur legged out a hit for a pair of runners aboard and sophomore Matt den Dekker roped a single into right field to score Figueroa. Senior Jon Townsend singled up the middle to load the sacks before Cisco had senior Bryson Barber pop up to short to end the frame.

After Cisco hit freshman Riley Cooper to begin the fourth, he was replaced by junior Craig Thomas. Over three innings, the righty surrendered eight hits and four runs and did not register a strikeout. USC freshman Scott Wingo drew a walk with two down from Toledo (3.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 2 K, R) in the home part of the inning, prompting a pitching change. Bullock entered with a bang, striking out junior Reese Havens.

In a bizarre fifth inning, the Gators used an RBI single by Townsend to build a 5-1 lead. Figueroa was plunked to start things off, McArthur followed with his second hit and den Dekker reached on a bunt to load the bases. However, Carolina coach Ray Tanner came out of the dugout and argued the call, which the umpires surprisingly overturned following a spirited discussion. After the play was changed to a sacrifice, Townsend stroked a single into left field for a four-run advantage.

McArthur ripped a two-out, two-run single in the sixth for a 7-1 margin. Munroe earned a free pass from Thomas (2.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R) and was sacrificed into scoring position by Barnes. Senior Sean Wideberg came out of the bullpen and had Adams fly out, pushing Munroe to third. Figueroa was walked intentionally and McArthur made USC pay by ripping a two-run single for a six-run cushion.

Wingo led off the bottom of the seventh with his sixth homer to narrow the gap to 7-2. It was the first hit allowed by Bullock on the night. Figueroa's third RBI plated Barnes to yield an 8-2 advantage in the eighth. Barnes had walked, stole second and was sacrificed to third by Adams. Munroe delivered a two-out RBI single off freshman reliever Justin Hopper in the ninth for a seven-run Gator cushion, then Haven later connected on his 13th dinger to finalize the 9-3 margin.

Florida did not commit any errors for the fifth game in a row and held a 12-7 advantage in hits. Munroe and Townsend chipped in with two hits apiece and Cooper matched a school record by being hit three times for the visitors. In a matchup of left-handers, UF will send junior Stephen Locke (3-2, 3.21) to the hill Saturday at 4 p.m. against Gamecock Will Atwood (4-2, 4.22).

Courtesy UF Sports Information

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