Gamecocks Fall 5-4 to Gators in Series Opener
By: USC SID
COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) — Second-ranked South Carolina raced ahead 4-2, but top-ranked Florida scored a run in the seventh inning and got a pair of homers from Jonathan India and Nick Horvath in the top of the ninth inning to rally and defeat the Gamecocks 5-4 on Friday night at Founders Park. Florida is 37-6 and 14-5 in the SEC, with South Carolina 33-9 and 14-5 in league play.
The Gamecocks built a lead on the back of a 3-for-4 night from freshman catcher Chris Cullen, who homered and doubled twice. Alex Destino also had a two-run homer with sophomore right-hander Clarke Schmidt allowing three runs, one earned, on five hits in 6.1 innings with six strikeouts.
The Gators however got to within one run in the seventh inning. After a scoreless eighth inning, Jonathan India led off the ninth with a solo homer to left field to tie the game at 4-4, his second homer of the season. After Gamecock left-hander Josh Reagan recorded the next two outs, Horvath gave the Gators a one-run lead with his first homer of the season to left field. The Gamecocks looked to rally in the bottom of the ninth as Gene Cone walked with two outs. Dom Thompson-Williams lifted a high drive to left field that was caught on the edge of the warning track by left fielder Nelson Maldonado, who made the grab right near the wall as Thompson-Williams just missed a game-winning homer.
Junior right-hander Dane Dunning earned the win for the Gators with three scoreless innings, two hits allowed and three strikeouts. Dunning is now 3-2 on the year. Junior left-hander Josh Reagan suffered the loss and is now 1-2 on the year. Florida right-hander Shaun Anderson pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save of the year.
The Gamecocks broke ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning. After John Jones reached base on a two-out walk, Alex Destino launched a two-run homer over the right field wall. Chris Cullen extended the lead to 3-0 in the fifth inning with his first home run of the year. Cullen turned on a 1-2 pitch from Logan Shore to homer to left field.
JJ Schwarz put the Gators on the board with a two-out, two-run homer to left field in the sixth inning. Schmidt had retired 11 in a row before a two-out fielding error by first baseman LT Tolbert to allow Deacon Liput to reach first base. Schwarz would then belt the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for his fifth home run of the year.
Cullen would answer for the Gamecocks with a one-out RBI double in the bottom of the sixth to push the Gamecocks’ lead back to a pair of runs. Jonah Bride led off the frame with a double to right field, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Madison Stokes to set the table for Cullen’s second double of the game.
A pair of homers from India and Horvath in the ninth lifted Florida to the victory.
Florida hit three home runs to account for four of the five runs in the contest.
• Alex Destino hit his fifth home run of the year, it was first homer since Charleston Southern on March 12.
• Chris Cullen recorded his first career home run and tied a career-high with three hits that he set on February 20 vs. Albany.
• Gene Cone has successfully reached base in 31 consecutive games, which is the longest streak by a SEC player this season. He extended his school record hitting streak to 28 games, which is one shy of the longest streak of the season in Division I baseball.
Head Coach Chad Holbrook
“This was a very difficult loss. Our kids played hard, but made a couple of mistakes that opened the door for Florida. We didn’t locate a couple of pitches, didn’t make a defensive play and great teams make you pay when you don’t execute. When we made a mistake, they made us pay for it. You have to tip your cap to them. They’re the number one team in the country for a reason obviously. We just have to minimize the mistakes against those guys, and hope if you make one or two that they don’t capitalize on them and they did tonight. You have to give them credit for the way they swung the bat in the ninth inning. It felt like we were in control, but we also made things a lot tougher than we should have. We had runners in scoring position with one out several times, and we couldn’t push another run across. Certainly the opportunity was there to win the game, and we didn’t capitalize on it offensively or defensively. When you have the opportunity offensively and defensively to win the game against a great team, you have to take advantage of them. Tonight we didn’t do that.”
Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Founders Park. It will be broadcast live on SEC Network +. The game can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”