The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks fall to superb Florida pitching in SEC opener

South Carolina (12-6, 0-1) dropped the first game of its opening conference series to the No. 2 Florida Gators (17-3, 1-0) by a 7-3 score at home on Friday night.

Florida starter Brady Singer silenced the Founders Park crowd with a six-inning, two-hit gem to give the Gators their fifth consecutive victory. With little run support, Adam Hill came up just short for the Gamecocks to drop to 2-2 on the season.

The win was Singer’s fifth in as many starts on the season. The All-SEC Second Team righthander had two-hitters against Rhode Island and Siena earlier in the season and exited Friday’s game with an ERA of 1.97 through 32 innings on the mound.

Though their bats stayed quiet most of the night, the Gamecocks came out swinging against the defense that propelled the Gators to No. 2 in the nation. In the bottom of the first, a single from LT Tolbert scored TJ Hopkins to give South Carolina an early 1-0 lead. But from there Singer was near-perfect, walking two and surrendering no runs and only a fifth-inning single to Chris Cullen as he pushed the Gator defense through six innings.

Florida gained the lead on Blake Reese’s two-run single off Hill in the top of the fourth and never trailed again Friday. Hill left the game after 4.2 innings of service with three earned runs on three hits, adding six walks and five strikeouts.

Hill's night was done after he surrendered a single and walked Jonathan India to put men on first and second with two out in the top of the fifth. TJ Shook came on in relief and gave up a single to the first batter he faced, Deacon Liput, to score Nelson Maldanado. Again with two out and two on in the sixth, Maldanado drove Shook’s 1-2 pitch down the left field line to score two runners and stretch the Florida lead to 5-2. 

Shook finished the night with four hits, three strikeouts and two earned runs in 1.1 innings.

Cullen got the Gamecocks back on the scoreboard in the seventh with a solo shot off Florida reliever Jack Leftwich to make it 5-2. The homer was Cullen’s second of the season and first since Feb. 18.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced Leftwich with Michael Byrne after Madison Stokes doubled to open the bottom of the eighth. Byrne got Tolbert to fly out but allowed a single to Jonah Bride, scoring Stokes to put South Carolina behind 5-3. 

Graham Lawson made his fifth appearance of the season for South Carolina in the eighth, where he managed to strikeout Maldanado with two out and two Gators on base to finish the inning unscathed. Satisfied, head coach Mark Kingston decided to go with Lawson in the ninth.

In the final frame, Lawson hit leadoff batsman JJ Schwarz on an 0-2 count to open the inning. Three pitches later, India smacked his team-leading seventh home run of the season to give Florida a steep 7-3 lead. 

Byrne did away with the Gamecocks in short order in the ninth, grounding out Jacob Olson and getting help from his infielders for a game-ending double play after hitting Cullen and walking Noah Campbell to notch his fourth save of 2018.

The second game of the weekend trio gets underway at 4 p.m. Saturday at Founders Park. 


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