Gators hold off No. 8 Gamecocks in opener
Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 9:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 9:55 p.m.
Too often this season, the young Florida baseball team has found ways to lose close games. That trend is changing.
Who: South Carolina at Florida
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Gainesville-area TV: Cox Sports (Channel 259 on Cox)
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM
Projected starters: Florida- Freshman right-hander Danny Young (1-3, 3.38) vs. South Carolina- Sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery (3-0, 0.78)
They are now finding ways to win them.
UF ran its modest, but impressive, winning streak to three games Thursday night, clipping No. 8 South Carolina 3-2 at McKethan Stadium.
The Gators pushed across the winning run on a throwing error in the fourth inning and made it stand up with strong pitching by starter Jonathon Crawford and the bullpen, error-free play in the field and a dramatic final out at third base in the ninth inning when it appeared the Gamecocks were going to tie the game.
“We'll take one anyway we can,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “It (the play at third) was a nice way to win it. A weird way.”
Earlier in the season “weird” plays usually went against the Gators late in games. This time it went in their favor.
With two outs in the top of the ninth and a runner (T.J. Costen) on second, Chase Vergason lined a sharp single to right against closer Johnny Magliozzi that appeared would tie the game as right fielder Cory Reid's throw headed toward the plate.
But rounding third, almost halfway home with the tying run, Costen stumbled and fell. He was thrown out by catcher Taylor Gushue as he tried to scramble back to third.
“Somebody told me he tripped,” Gushue said. “I didn't know he had tripped. I was ready to tag him. When I looked up and saw him pretty far down the line, I was like, ‘Oh, this is pretty easy.'
“I was just waiting for the throw. As soon as I caught the ball, I turned around and he was laying down on the ground.”
The dramatic win was UF's third consecutive victory against a ranked opponent. The Gators (17-18 overall and 6-7 in the SEC) won at No. 17 Mississippi State on Sunday and beat No. 7 FSU in Tallahassee on Tuesday.
UF has won six of it's last eight games.
“I don't think it's just the last three games,” O'Sullivan said. “I think this team has been better the last month. The results haven't always been the way we wanted them, but I think we've been playing better.
“We've been getting a lot of contributions. We've lost some tough one-run games, but I have seen improvement over the last month.”
Crawford, who pitched a strong 6 2/3 innings to pick up his second victory of the season, said the Gators' confidence is growing.
“Yeah,” he said. “We're a really young team, but we're starting to play really good baseball. We've just got to stay with it and play together as a team.
“(South Carolina) is a great team. It's huge (to win this game). We'll have momentum (for tonight's game).”
It was obvious how much getting the win meant for the Gators when O'Sullivan went to Magliozzi in the ninth to close it out. He is the scheduled starter in Saturday's game.
“I tried to overthink it, 3-2 game,” O'Sullivan said. “Ryan (Harris) was throwing the ball so well in the eighth (but was pulled after walking the leadoff man in the ninth).
“Mags is going to start on Saturday. He still very well might, I told him, if his arm feels fine. He just wants the ball all the time.”
The Gators scored what would be the winning run in the fourth inning after the Gamecocks (27-7, 8-4 SEC) had tied the game 2-2 with two runs in the third.
Vickash Ramjit led off the fourth with a bunt single and one out later reached third on a single by Harrison Bader. Moments later, Bader stole second on catcher Grayson Greiner, whose wild throw went into center field and allowed Ramjit to score.
UF's pitching and defense made the one-run lead hold up the rest of the way.
“It's good for us,” Gushue said. “It's gives us momentum. It's a good win, one step closer to .500.
“Absolutely, (this winning streaks gives us confidence). Tonight proved that. We were able to hold that one-run lead for five innings. That was good.”