Florida eliminates South Carolina

HOOVER, Ala. -- Florida dominated South Carolina Friday on the way to an easy 7-2 victory to eliminate the Gamecocks from the SEC Tournament with a 1-2 record.

South Carolina's stay at the SEC Tournament ended very much like the Gamecocks' last few trips to Hoover -- with disappointment.

After the Gamecocks earned a victory over Auburn to avoid elimination Thursday, Florida dominated South Carolina Friday on the way to an easy 7-2 victory.

Nothing seemed to go the Gamecocks way as the Gators had the edge from the onset.

Starting pitcher Colby Holmes, who had perhaps his best start of the season last week, was never himself as he left multiple pitches over the plate and the Florida hitters made him pay for it.

Florida pushed across a run in both the first and second innings before sending Holmes to the dugout with a two-run homer from Mike Zunino with one out in the third that put the Gators up 4-0.

"We've had a lot of games this year where the pitching carried us for the majority of them, but we weren't very good tonight," head coach Ray Tanner said. "You can't do that against a team like Florida with Brian Johnson on the mound."

Johnson seemed content with letting the South Carolina hitters put the ball in play and allowing his superb defense to play behind him. The Gators got diving stops from first baseman Vickash Ramjit and third baseman Josh Tobias, who also speared a line drive in the first, as Florida played a perfect game defensively.

Johnson pitched a complete game and allowed just two earned runs and five hits. He didn't allow a walk.

"He's down in the zone. It's tough to keep pitching around the knees in and out, and he could locate," Tanner said. "He could spin one when he needed to. ... Every pitch is right on the knee caps. He did a great job. He's outstanding."

While the Gamecocks couldn't seem to get anything to drop, a blooper off the bat of Preston Tucker found grass in right field over the head of Chase Vergason and set up another Florida rally in the fifth.

Evan Beal relieved Holmes in the third and got two quick outs and cruised through a 1-2-3 fourth, but gave up a leadoff single to Nolan Fontana in the fifth followed by Tucker's blooper.

After a wild pitch advanced both runners, South Carolina chose to intentionally walk Zunino to load the bases. Beal walked the next batter to push the lead to 5-0 and then after a strikeout allowed a single to left to put the Gators up 7-0.

Nolan Belcher, Forrest Koumas and Logan Munson were able to hold the Gators at bay from that point forward, but the damage had already been done.

The Gamecocks tried to start a rally in the sixth when Tanner English led off the inning by beating out an infield single and Vergason singled down the left field line. But Joey Pankake's grounder to third was turned into a 5-6-3 double play -- English scored on the play but any chance of a big inning was effectively ended.

South Carolina did tack on a run in the ninth when Evan Marzilli doubled with two outs and Christian Walker singled him home.

Holmes was charged with the loss after allowing four earned runs off five hits. Holmes missed time earlier in the season due to a freak arm injury but said he felt fine physically, the poor outing was just a result of putting too many pitches over the plate.

"I felt good today, but things just weren't going my way," Holmes said. "I couldn't throw strikes, left some balls up, and got hit."

Johnson earned the win for Florida as Fontana, Tucker, Tobias and Turgeon led the way in the batter's box for the Gators with two hits a piece.

South Carolina returns to Columbia with a spot hosting a regional next week secured, but a top-eight national seed up in the air.

South Carolina has rebounded from poor play at the tournament in the last two seasons to win back-to-back national championships.

But the biggest question may be about the health of Koumas, who worked through the eighth inning but had to leave the game in the ninth when he re-irritated the injury to his right elbow that kept him out of action for several weeks earlier in the season.

"I think it's the same situation we had before with him," Tanner said before cautioning that he was just speculating. "We'll just have to wait a couple days to see where we are, but I think it's likely that we won't have him next weekend."

Regional hosts and sites will be announced at www.NCAA.com/CWS at approximately 3:30 ET Sunday, May 27. The full 64-team brack will be released Monday, May 28, at noon ET on ESPNU.

"The good news is we have played pretty well after this, after not being very good here, and hopefully that trend will continue," Tanner said.

"I'm not going to be one of those coaches that waits for next weekend to come, we're going to go, go to work and see if we can get a little bit better. If we don't, we don't, but we're going to try."

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