Gators take series

With two outs and two strikes in the ninth, shortstop Nolan Fontana tripled into the right-center gap to score two runs and break a 3-3 tie as the Gators defeated South Carolina 5-4 Saturday afternoon to take the series 2-1. Florida improves to 22-5 and 5-1 in the SEC while Carolina drops to 17-7 and 1-5 in league play.

After a blowout win by each team, current No. 1 Florida and two-time defending champion South Carolina gave the Gamecock fans in attendance a finale worthy of the top-billing the series received coming in.

It just wasn't the outcome the South Carolina fans wanted.

With two outs and two strikes in the ninth, shortstop Nolan Fontana tripled into the right-center gap to score two runs and break a 3-3 tie as the Gators defeated South Carolina 5-4 Saturday afternoon to take the series 2-1.

"There is always disappointment," Christian Walker said. "Everyone in the locker room is disappointed. We should be. We had them where we wanted them, we came back, and we tied it up.

"We had it going into the bottom of the eighth. We had it set up for Matt Price to come in and shut them down and we couldn't do it. That's the way it goes I guess."

South Carolina third baseman LB Dantzler homered to left center in the bottom of the ninth, but the Gamecocks weren't otherwise able to threaten with base-runners in their final at-bat.

Reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever-again Matt Price was on the mound again in the latter innings just like he was in the series opener when Tanner decided to bring him in with the game tied rather than start him the next night.

While that outing helped propel South Carolina to an 8-2 victory, it wasn't in the cards tonight as the All-American took the loss. Price easily retired the first six batters he faced, but then with two outs in the ninth, walked Vickash Ramjit and hit Cody Dent with a full count pitch. That set up Fontana's heroics.

"Felt fine with him out there," head coach Ray Tanner said. "He was 1-2 on Fontana. He ended up making a couple of pitches, then he left one in the zone, and that's part of it. It could have been a 4-3, it could have been an F8, but Fontana ended up getting the ball hit in the alley. You have to give the young man credit."

The loss was particularly disappointing for Tanner, because of the way his young team, now 1-5 in SEC play, battled back from an early 3-0 deficit.

"I don't know if frustration is that right word but certainly disappointed because we did get in a position to win," Tanner said. "We were down by three, we went to Tyler Webb and he gave us some good saves. We went to Matt Price and got some base runners on. We had a chance to make something happened and we didn't."

Florida pushed across a run in the first off starter Colby Holmes on a sacrifice fly. And then extended the lead with two more runs in the third on solo home runs from Daniel Pigott and Mike Zunino.

South Carolina pulled Holmes for left-hander Tyler Webb to being the fourth and Webb gave the Gamecocks exactly what they needed -- 3.2 scoreless innings to bridge the gap to Price and a chance to chip away at the lead.

South Carolina did just that with two in the fourth when Grayson Greiner singled up the middle and Erik Payne's flyout to right field was just deep enough to score Christian Walker on the tag-up.

The Gamecocks tied it up in the fifth when Joey Pankake singled through the left side with two outs and freshman Tanner English, considered the fastest player Tanner has ever coached, beat the throw home despite the good throw from shallow left field.

South Carolina threatened in the bottom of the eighth when closer Austin Maddox walked two batters and threw two wild pitches to put runners at second and third with just one out. But pinch-hitter Michael Roth and Greiner both struck out to end the inning.

Maddox earned the win after taking the loss in the series opener.

The path doesn't get any easier for the Gamecocks, who after playing five games in five days, will now play five straight road games. South Carolina travels to The Citadel Tuesday before a three-game SEC series at Vanderbilt next weekend.

Despite the struggles of starters Holmes and Forrest Koumas, Tanner doesn't anticipate making any changes there, and while he wouldn't make it official, Tanner indicated it was most likely that Price would remain in the bullpen.

"We've played hard, we've had some spurts that's we've been a pretty good club but haven't been able to put it all together," Tanner said. "Hopefully we will make some strides and get some games back that have been close and have gotten away from us. All you can do it keep grinding it out."

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