Godwin is a Godsend for Gamecocks

Nick Godwin was just what the doctor ordered, and Mike Cisco's return to the mound was triumphant in a relief capacity as South Carolina staved off elimination in Hoover, AL by defeating the Florida Gators 11-3. Two big five run innings by the Gamecock offense didn't hurt either.

The Gamecocks move on to take the loser of the Vanderbilt/LSU game on Friday at 4:00 EST. The Gators, well, the Gators go home.

After a devastating loss on Thursday, South Carolina turned to two veteran pitchers to mend their wounds. Nick Godwin went seven strong for the win and Mike Cisco finished the final two innings, allowing only one base runner, helping their team advance in the tournament.

Coach Ray Tanner didn't seem too surprised in Godwin's performance. "He's been tremendous accepting his role in the middle of the week and getting a chance to pitch on the weekends. You feel very good about having someone like that wear the uniform. I'm very, very proud of Nick Godwin."

Cisco was also proud of his teammate. "Yesterday left us with a bad feeling in our stomachs when we left the ballpark. He (Godwin) did what he needed to do, putting us on his back after yesterday. I was just trying to keep his game going after I got in."

Godwin was 6-3 with a 2.95 ERA coming into this game. Florida countered with Sophomore Billy Bullock out of Balm, FL. Bullock had a 4-3 record and an ERA of 4.20 in 15 appearances.

There were a couple of lineup changes for Carolina. After having a less than stellar performance in Wednesday's loss to LSU, Tanner replaced Andrew Crisp in left field with DeAngelo Mack. Mack had been the DH against the Tigers. Freshman Parker Bangs took on that role against the Gators.

Florida was the away team and got off to an early start. Stringing together a couple of hits and a sacrifice, Florida was able to push across the first run of the game. Godwin did a good job of avoiding any further damage to get out of the inning, only giving up a single run.

After each team had a scoreless half inning, the Gamecock bats came to life in the bottom of the second and the Gator pitchers became very generous. Catcher Phil Disher got things started with a walk. Mack singled, sending Disher to second. Bangs then promptly doubled an 0-2 pitch down the right field line, scoring Disher, and the hit parade was on. Right fielder Harley Lail plated the next run with a single. After Scott Wingo fouled out, leadoff hitter Reese Havens drove in another run with a soft liner to center. Whit Merrifield singled between short and third, loading the bases.

Florida right hander Tommy Toledo came on to relieve Bullock, who was anything but sharp on this day. His line on the day was nothing to write home about. He went 1 and 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs and faced only 11 batters. Justin Smoak greeted Toledo with a walk, bringing in another run. It was the 149th base on balls of his career, tying him with Jeff Parnell for the school record. Smoak would later hit a three run shot in the eighth, giving him 200 RBIs for his career and making him USC's all-time RBI king, passing Mac White and Chris Boyle at 198.

Third baseman James Darnell followed Smoak with another walk and the damage was done. All in all, five Gamecocks scored on four singles, a double, and three base on balls. South Carolina did strand three runners in the inning as well. Florida centerfielder Matt den Dekker would later say that the five run fifth was difficult to overcome. "To come out and get a run in the first then turn around and give up five in the second…you could tell that the momentum had really changed."

Over the next three innings, the Gators picked away at the lead, picking up a run in the third and one in the fifth.

The Gamecocks got one back in their half of the fifth when Darnell led off the inning with a one hop double off the left field wall. He moved over to third when shortstop Cole Figueroa misplayed the throw back into the infield. Disher grounded to first, scoring Darnell and giving USC a 6-3 advantage.

Godwin did not have his best stuff on the day but did a good job of keeping the Gators out of the big inning. He scattered nine hits over seven innings, allowing 3 earned runs and striking out seven. He struggled against den Dekker and Figueroa all day; the second and third batter in the order, these two combined for six of the nine hits Godwin would surrender. Den Dekker scored all three of Florida's runs on the day. "I wish I knew," Godwin said when asked why these guys hit him so well today. "It would've made life so much easier. I made good pitches early in the count. They do a good job of adjusting with two strikes. They're good hitters."

Mike Cisco made his return to the mound memorable, allowing only one hit in the final two innings and closing the door on the Gators.

After the game he talked about his new role. "Whether I start or whether I come out of the (bull)pen, it's going to be the same 150 percent effort - the same mentality. I'm going to try to keep my team in a position to win or put my team in a position to win."

The game was still very much in doubt when Cisco entered the game in the eighth. USC led 6-3 and he was able to get through the inning unscathed.

With the bullpen shaky of late, the Gamecocks seemed to be determined to put this one away at the plate. The bottom of the eighth saw Carolina put another five spot on the board, which included Smoak's record breaking three-run home run, giving the Cocks a seemingly insurmountable lead.

The Gators concurred and surrendered in the ninth, going down 1-2-3, to the delight of the Gamecock faithful that made the trip to Hoover.

USC advances to take on the loser of the Vandy/LSU game at 4:00 CST on Friday. This will be another elimination game. Blake Cooper will likely take the mound for the Yardcocks, but Tanner has reserved the right to make a game time decision.

Florida returns to Gainesville to await notification of their destination for next week's NCAA Regionals.

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