The South Carolina softball team won its first SEC series of the season over No. 11 Florida, bookending the weekend with wins to improve to 3-6 in conference play.
The team came back from behind in the first game, fell to the Gators in crushing fashion in the game two and took a commanding win on Sunday.
A late offensive outburst by the Gamecocks helped the team earn a 13-10 upset victory in the opening game of the series Friday night.
After a seven-run inning by the Gators, South Carolina faced a 10-6 deficit heading into the bottom of the sixth, but it combined quality at the plate and an ability to take advantage of defensive mistakes on its way to scoring seven runs and cementing the victory.
Junior infielder Zoe Laneaux, who finished the game as the Gamecocks’ only multi-hit performer with a 2-4 statline, got the team’s bats going with an RBI double that scored sophomore infielder Brooke Blankenship.
As the inning progressed, South Carolina scored runs on two additional RBI singles, a bases-loaded hit by pitch and a passed ball, displaying a mix of skill and luck that allowed the team to score seven runs of its own and re-establish the lead.
The Gamecocks’ offense showed up in spurts throughout the game, as 11 of the 13 runs came in just the second and sixth innings. Its offensive production in the second inning nearly mirrored that of the sixth. South Carolina got just one hit in the inning but scored four runs on another bases-loaded hit by pitch, a throwing error and a sacrifice bunt.
While Gamecock hitters consistently found a way to establish an advantage, the pitching staff carried over its struggles from Tuesday’s matchup against Clemson, where it allowed 10 runs. South Carolina pitchers opened the sixth inning by walking the first three Florida batters who came to the plate and allowed five walks over the entire frame — two of which directly resulted in runs for the Gators.
Florida won the second game of the series 8-1 as the Gamecocks' offensive production struggled to earn just one run on four hits against graduate student pitcher Elizabeth Hightower, who pitched all seven innings and finished with 129 total pitches for the Gators.
Florida opened the scoring with two back-to-back home runs and two outs in the first inning and never looked back.
While the Gamecocks did not rotate through all six members of the pitching staff as it did in the first game, the pitching struggles from game one carried over. Freshman pitcher Jori Heard started the game but was quickly replaced by senior pitcher Karsen Ochs in the first inning after allowing three runs on three hits with just one strikeout.
Ochs pitched into the top of the fourth inning, when junior pitcher Leah Powell came in to finish the inning and, subsequently, the game.
Laneaux continued to be South Carolina’s star with another multi-hit performance, going 2-3 with a double.
Sophomore outfielder Marissa Gonzalez would score the Gamecocks’ only run on an RBI fielder's choice from Blankenship in the bottom of the fifth inning.
In the series finale, South Carolina completed the upset, taking down the Gators 3-0 and attaining its seventh shutout of the season.
After a rough week of pitching, senior pitcher Donnie Gobourne started on the mound for the Gamecocks in the rubber game of the series and pitched all seven innings. Gobourne faced 27 Florida hitters and struck out 15 of them.
“Nobody is like Donnie,” Laneaux said. “Nobody is going to be able to outhit us when Donnie is pitching.”
The Gamecocks held the Gators to just one hit and no runs. The first and only hit of the game for Florida came in the seventh inning by junior outfielder Katie Kistler.
“It feels good. I know I can always depend on my team no matter the circumstances,” Gobourne said.
Junior infielder Riley Blampied was the hero for the Gamecocks on Sunday, accounting for all three runs. She went 3-3 in the game and hit her sixth home run of the season during the bottom of the second inning. In the next inning, Blampied hit a double that scored both Laneaux and junior outfielder Aniyah Black.
“I’m proud of this group,” head coach Beverly Smith said. “We fought all weekend long. We ran into a tough Hightower yesterday, and she shut down our offense. But for games one and three, I was really proud about how our offense came out.”
South Carolina (26-9, 3-6 SEC) will continue SEC play in a three-game road series against No. 13 Alabama next Thursday through Saturday. All three games will be streamed on SEC Network+.