The South Carolina Gamecocks were less then 90 feet from tying Thursday night’s contest against the Florida Gators.
Trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, T.J. Costen slipped rounding third base on a Chase Vergason single and was tagged out trying to get back to third. The base running blunder was one of three sloppy plays by the Gamecocks that ultimately cost them in the 3-2 loss.
“It is just a baseball play,” Gamecocks catcher Grayson Greiner said of Costen’s fall. “T.J was just trying to get there. He is one of our fastest guys. He just slipped. There isn’t much you can do there. He was trying to make something happen.”
In his sixth start of the year, South Carolina pitcher Nolan Belcher (5-3) was the hard-luck loser. The senior from Augusta didn’t have the normal flawless defense behind him nor the offensive support needed. Of the three runs Florida put on the board, one was earned.
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Florida scored the first run on a throwing error by Gamecock third baseman George Iskenderian. After Belcher gave up back-to-back singles to Justin Shafer and Vickash Ramjit, Josh Tobias squared to bunt to move the runners over. Iskenderian and first baseman LB Dantzler cheated on the play.
The ball came to Iskenderian. He fielded it cleanly but threw it over the head of Vergason, who was covering first. Shafer scored, Ramjit went to third and Tobias ended up on second. Two batters later, Belcher gave up an opposite-field single to Mike Fahrman to make it 2-0 Florida.
South Carolina got two in the top of the third. Tanner English led off by getting hit by Gator pitcher Jonathan Crawford. Graham Saiko followed with a single. Vergason bunted both players over, setting up runners on second and third. After Tuesday night’s hero, Joey Pankake, struck out, English came home on a wild pitch with Dantzler at the plate. The Gamecock first baseman then delivered his team-leading 35th RBI with a single to tie the game 2-2.
In the bottom of the fourth, the second South Carolina error gave the Gators the game-winning run. With runners on first and third and one out, Gator left fielder Harrison Bader attempted to steal second. Greiner’s throw was high and wide. It went off of Vergason’s glove and Ramjit, who was on third, came home to score.
“Errors are going to happen,” Belcher said. “I’m going to walk people. I’m going to make errors on the mound. Sometimes it just happens. You can’t worry about that. It is my job to pitch through it and keep runners from crossing home, and I didn’t do that.”
Belcher’s final line was seven hits, one walk and two strikeouts on 98 pitches.
It is South Carolina’s first SEC road loss since March 16 at Missouri. The Gamecocks are 27-8, 8-5 in the SEC.
Friday’s contest features the Gamecocks’ Jordan Montgomery (3-0) against Florida’s Danny Young (1-3). First pitch is 7:30 p.m.
Note. USC closer Tyler Webb was unavailable Thursday because of a sore arm.
“I’m very concerned about Tyler,” Gamecock coach Chad Holbrook said. “We are going to take it day-to-day and see if he can play catch [Friday]. If he has less pain or he feels like he can pitch, we’ll pitch him. If not, if he still has some discomfort, we’ll have to get him evaluated by doctors when we get back to Columbia.”