GAINESVILLE, FLA. (USC SID) – No. 18 South Carolina led No. 9 Florida 5-3 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, but a grand slam homer by JJ Schwarz lifted the Gators to a 7-5 win on Saturday at McKethan Stadium in the rubber game of a three-game SEC baseball series. South Carolina is now 24-15 and 9-9 in the SEC with Florida 27-13 and 10-8 in league play.
In a back and forth affair, Carolina went ahead 5-3 in the seventh inning on a two-run homer by Chris Cullen, his fifth homer of the season. It would remain that way until the bottom of the eighth when Florida mounted one final rally. Austin Langworthy singled to open the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Larson also singled to give the Gators a pair of runners with no outs. With Colie Bowers relieving Josh Reagan, the Gators would load the bases on a walk to Nelson Maldonado, who had homered in his previous at bat. That set the stage for Schwarz who lifted a 1-0 pitch from Bowers over the left field wall for his fifth home run of the season giving the Gators the two-run lead.
Florida reliever Garrett Milchin earned the win and is now 3-1 on the year after 0.2 scoreless innings of work. Bowers suffered the loss and is now 3-1 for the season. Michael Byrne would pitch a scoreless ninth for his eighth save of the year for the Gators.
South Carolina out-hit Florida 13-7 in the contest with four Gamecocks finishing with multi-hit afternoons. Jacob Olson tied his career-high going 3-for-4 at the plate with TJ Hopkins, LT Tolbert and Carlos Cortes with two hits apiece as well.
Carolina jumped on Florida starter Jackson Kowar in the first with a pair of runs. Hopkins led off the game with a single and scored on Tolbert’s RBI bloop double out of the reach of Florida center fielder Austin Langworthy. After a balk moved Tolbert to third base, Cortes would drive him in with a RBI groundout.
Florida tied it at 2-2 with a run in the second and a run in the third inning. The Gators loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk to open the second inning with a double play ball of the bat of Christian Hicks scoring a run. The third inning saw Florida load the bases again with one out with Ryan Larson driving in a run on a RBI groundout.
Carolina regained the lead in the fifth inning. TJ Hopkins led off with a single to right field, advanced to second on a balk and scored on Carlos Cortes’ one-out RBI double to right field. Florida would tie it at 3-3 in the sixth inning on a solo homer to left field off the bat of Nelson Maldonado.
Schwarz’ grand slam in the eighth inning helped lead the Gators to the victory.
South Carolina pitchers issued eight walks in the game with three of those runners scoring in the contest.
South Carolina has only lost two games this year by four or more runs. 13 of South Carolina’s 18 SEC games have been decided by three runs or less this year. The Gamecocks are 4-9 in those contests.
Freshman outfielder Carlos Cortes hit .357 (5-for-14) for the Florida series with a homer, a double and four RBIs. Jacob Olson was South Carolina’s leading hitter in the series going 5-for-12 (.417) with a double and a RBI.
QUOTABLE FROM HEAD COACH CHAD HOLBROOK
“Obviously a heartbreaking loss. Our kids played their tails off for eight innings and you have one bad little spurt there and it cost us the game. It’s heartbreaking for our kids because they laid it out on the line. We out-hit them 13-7 but they made their hits count. In the game of baseball, that’s part of it. Didn’t throw it well there in that (8th) inning. It’s a tough loss.”
South Carolina returns home to host Kentucky in a three-game series at Founders Park beginning on Friday night at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network Plus and can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”