Gamecocks take weekend series against Gators

The Gamecocks (33-15, 13-11 SEC) and Gators (28-18, 13-11 SEC) battled it out Sunday afternoon in the rubber match of their weekend series, with Carolina coming away with a 9-6 victory. The win gave USC the series victory and put them in third place in the SEC East (tied with Florida), behind Georgia and Vanderbilt.


The Gators sent right-hander Patrick Keating to the mound. Keating entered the game 8-0 in ten starts, with a 2.69 ERA. The Gamecocks got to Keating almost immediately, though. Reese Havens led off with a walk, and Whit Merrifield followed with a bunt single. Havens scored on a throwing error by Florida, and then Phil Disher, who went 4-4 with two RBIS, a home run, and an intentional walk, hit a line drive home run to left center to give the Gamecocks the early 3-0 lead. Disher played with a sore hip that severely limited his mobility as the game wore on.

"I'm delighted with Disher," said Ray Tanner. "He's banged up a little bit and he stayed back there for us [at catcher]. Disher's a fifth year guy and he's going to gut it out for us. He's a guy that doesn't want to see it end, so he keeps playing and did a super job for us."

For Carolina, Blake Cooper pitched well early, but lost his control in the fourth inning. He gave up a two-run homer to Bryson Barber, and a solo shot to the very next batter, Riley Cooper. Cooper then gave up a walk, hit a batter, and gave up another walk to load the bases with two outs. Senior Nick Godwin, who is the normal Tuesday starter, came in to get the Gamecocks out of the jam, and he rose to the challenge by getting a groundout to escape the inning with a tie.

"You've got to really settle yourself down when you come [in] bases loaded and 2 outs in a tied series with Florida," Godwin said. "It's nerve-racking, but I think all my experience this year really helped me out."

From that point on, the game changed from a defensive battle to an offensive showcase. The Gators scored two runs in the top of the fifth to take their only lead of the game, 5-3. That lead was short-lived however, as Justin Smoak evened the score with a two run blast to left. That home run chased Keating from the game, and the Gamecocks were able to take the lead off his replacement, Kyle Mullaney. Disher doubled, and later scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Crisp. Lail, who singled to move Disher to third, came around to score on a single by DeAngelo Mack, and gave the Gamecocks a 7-5 lead. Tanner was surprised the Gamecocks were able to get five runs off Keating.

"Even the best guys sometimes get beat, maybe he's not going to win," Tanner told the team before the game. "I was getting coaches' opinions on what he's done, and they said he's going to stay out there so you've got to score some runs. We scored but he stayed, and then finally Smoak hit the home run and that was big for us."

Florida manufactured a run in the sixth to stay close, but James Darnell gave Carolina some breathing room with a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning to make the score 9-6 Carolina. From there, pitching took over for both teams and the final three innings were scoreless. Florida made things interesting in the ninth inning. Godwin gave up a double and a walk to put the tying run at the plate with two outs. Parker Bangs came out of the bullpen to strike out Riley Cooper and get the save.

The series win was a big return to form for Carolina, after being swept at LSU and then dropping the first game against Florida 9-3. The Gamecocks regained some confidence, and got productivity from their key contributors.

"You're supposed to win games when guys in the middle of the order hit home runs," said Tanner. "If you get 7, 8, 9 runs, you are supposed to win. We didn't play very well on Friday night, and we didn't score but three runs. I told our guys we've got to put ourselves in a position to win and you can't score three runs and win."


Notes:

- Justin Smoak is now tied for 9th in school history with 58 career home runs. He has 19 for the season.

- Phil Disher's 4 hits tied his career high for hits in a game. It was the second time this year and third time in his career he has accomplished the feat. Disher started his second consecutive game at catcher so that Kyle Enders could rest. Enders has a sore arm, though Tanner said he "probably" could have played.

- Nick Godwin had consecutive pickoffs at first base in the fifth inning. He now has eight for the season, four shy of the Carolina season record, set by Scott pace in 1994. "He's quick," said Tanner. "You have to have good feet to have a pickoff move like that. A lot of pitchers just don't move their feet quick enough, and he does."


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