Florida rallies late to even series at South Carolina

Florida starting pitcher A.J. Puk (10) throws during a 5-1 loss against Illinois at McKethan Stadium on March 2.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 11:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 11:31 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 15 Florida's Justin Shafer hit a sacrifice fly in the 13th inning and alternated with A.J. Puk on the mound Saturday to keep No. 5 South Carolina off the scoreboard in extra innings, as the Gators evened the series with the Gamecocks.

The Gators trailed 3-0 after seven innings, but rallied with two in the eighth and one in the ninth to force extra innings.

“That was a marathon,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “That was quite the game. There were so many positives. Aaron Rhodes gets his first start of the year and gets us off to a good start. The three runs we gave up were two strikes and two outs, just like yesterday. We close out a couple more innings and we might not go into extras.”

Puk (3-2) earned the win with a perfect 10th, two outs in the 11th, one out in the 12th and a 1-2-3 13th. The freshman drove in Florida's first run on a double after pinch hitting in the eighth and scored the second on shortstop Richie Martin's RBI single.

“What can you say about the job A.J Puk did?” O'Sullivan said. “He comes off the bench and hits a double on an 0-2 pitch to left-center and pitches like a veteran. I think he grew up an awful lot today. We've always known that he is very talented, but to do this on this stage when we lost the first one, was a heck of a performance both offensively and pitching wise.”

Second baseman Casey Turgeon drove in the tying run in the ninth with a RBI sac fly. Shafer recorded the last out in the 11th and two in the 12th.

The Gators began the 13th with consecutive singles from center fielder Harrison Bader and catcher Taylor Gushue. Bader would reach third and come around to score on Shafer's RBI to hand Gamecock closer Joel Seddon (1-1), who entered the game not allowing a run in 15 appearances, his first loss of the season.

The Gators (22-13, 8-6 SEC) will play South Carolina (28-6, 8-5 SEC) for the series and SEC East lead at 1:30 p.m. today.

Rhodes and South Carolina starter Jack Wynkoop kept the game scoreless until the Gamecocks scored two in the fifth before adding another in the sixth and looked to be in control.

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