Right after solid pitching from both teams, one defense shined and another made two costly mistakes in extra innings.
South Carolina made the plays it needed to win the game, 2-1.
Florida had all the opportunities to win the game. They left eight men on base and recorded three errors in the game. The bulk of the batting order—center fielder Bryson Smith, first baseman Preston Tucker, catcher Mike Zunino and designated hitter Brian Johnson—recorded seven hits but could not drive in a run.
The pitching was good on both sides. Starting pitcher Hudson Randall for Florida was great, as usual, only giving up three hits and an earned run, just like South Carolina’s starting pitcher, Forrest Koumas.
A key moment happened in the bottom of the ninth.
Gamecocks reliever John Taylor, with a submarine pitch, was not comfortable at the beginning and walked Zunino after nine pitches. Johnson hit a deep single to the right that gave Zunino a trip all the way to third base.
After intentionally walking the next hitter, Florida had the bases loaded with no outs. South Carolina moved more of their defense in. Second baseman Scott Wingo dove for a ball of the bat of Tyler Thompson and got Zunino out at home. Daniel Piggot then grounded into a double play—again Wingo threw to the catcher, who then got Piggot out at first.
Both Thompson and Piggot went a combined 0-for-8 in the game.
Taylor got in trouble again in the 10th inning, deciding to pass on Tucker and throw to slumping Zunino. It looked as if Zunino hit it deep enough to get Cody Dent around, but Gamecocks catcher Robert Beary tagged him out before he hit the home plate.
As the Gamecocks defense stepped up, Florida’s fizzled in the top of the 11th. Christian Walker, who was able to play with a bad hand, singled in his at-bat. He stole second and advanced to third and then home on two straight throwing errors by Florida.
Gamecocks closer Matt Price, coming off of a tremendous outing on Friday in which they eliminated Virginia, finished off the Gators in the bottom of the inning, giving South Carolina the 1-0 edge in this best-of-three series finale.
Game 2 will be played tomorrow at 7:00 pm Central Time and can be seen on ESPN.
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