Gators Eliminated in Birmingham

Five-run second and eighth innings powered seventh-seeded South Carolina past third-seeded Florida, 11-3, in the first elimination game of the 2008 SEC Tournament on Thursday at Regions Park.

The Gamecocks advance to face the loser of tonight's winner's bracket matchup between No. 2 LSU and No. 6 Vanderbilt tomorrow at 4 p.m. Meanwhile, the Gators will return to Gainesville and await Monday's NCAA Tournament selection show that will air live on ESPN at 12:30 p.m.

Senior right-hander Nick Godwin (7-3) scattered nine hits, permitted three runs and totaled seven strikeouts over seven innings for the win. USC junior Mike Cisco notched his first save by tossing two scoreless frames in which he allowed one hit. Each team had 10 hits, with Gator sophomore Matt den Dekker 3-for-4 with three runs and classmate Cole Figueroa a perfect 3-for-3.

The Gators grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on a sacrifice fly by senior Brandon McArthur (1-for-3, two RBI) that brought across den Dekker, whose 13-game hitting streak was halted yesterday, stroked a one-out single to left center off Godwin and took third on a base-hit by Figueroa. McArthur delivered his second sac fly of the campaign to right field to help Florida draw first blood.

USC moved in front with five runs on five hits in the home part of the second for a 5-1 advantage. Senior Phil Disher drew a leadoff walk from sophomore Billy Bullock (4-4) and sophomore DeAngelo Mack followed with a single through the right side. Freshman Parker Bangs (2-for-4) smoked an RBI double down the right-field line to tie the game, leaving runners on second and third with none out, and senior Harley Lail dropped in a Texas Leaguer to shallow left for a 2-1 Gamecock lead. Junior Reese Havens drove in Bangs with a one-out flare into center to load the bases, chasing Bullock (1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R) from the game. Freshman Tommy Toledo walked junior slugger Justin Smoak (1-for-4, four RBI) to bring across Lail and issued a walk to junior James Darnell for a 5-1 score. Toledo prevented further trouble by having senior Phil Disher pop-up in foul territory and struck out Mack to leave the sacks full.

McArthur collected his second RBI of the game with a single up the middle to narrow UF's deficit to 5-2 in the third. den Dekker had led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Figueroa. McArthur's hit was his third of the tournament.

Figueroa brought the Gators within 5-3 in the fifth on a knock into center field. den Dekker rifled a one-out double just inside the left-field line and Figueroa came through with a single. Godwin attempted to pick Figueroa off first base and an errant throw enabled the runner to take third. Godwin kept USC ahead by two runs by striking out McArthur and having freshman Josh Adams fly out to center.

Darnell started the bottom of the frame with a double to the base of the left-field wall and took third on a throwing error by Figueroa. Soon after, Disher provided South Carolina with a 6-3 advantage with a grounder to first.

Toledo plunked freshman Scott Wingo with one down in the sixth and issued a walk to Havens before being replaced by senior Josh Edmondson. Over a career-high four innings out of the bullpen, Toledo gave up one hit and one run, with three walks and three strikeouts. Edmondson threw one pitch and had freshman Whit Merrifield ground into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play, the Gators' 70th of the campaign.

The Gamecocks tacked on five insurance runs in the eighth, highlighted by a three-run bomb by Smoak, to finalize the 11-3 margin. Mack reached on a leadoff error by junior left fielder Avery Barnes and went to third on a single by Bangs. Wingo poked an RBI single through the right side and was able to move over to second on a wild pitch. Edmondson (2.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 0 ER) walked Havens to fill the sacks with one down and Merrifield lofted a sac fly to deep center. Smoak jacked his 21st homer, 60th of his career, over the 405-foot mark in center to clear the bases and complete the scoring.

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