On Saturday night after Florida beat South Carolina, Gators baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan had a talk with his team.
The message was simple — finish it.
“I told them if they want to host a regional, it’s not enough to win two,” O’Sullivan said. “You’ve got to do things like this.”
Florida responded by scoring seven runs in the first two innings Sunday and went on to sweep the Gamecocks with a 9-5 victory. It was Florida’s first sweep of South Carolina in 12 years.
“This was a big series for us momentum-wise,” second baseman Josh Adams said. “We know we can beat teams like this now. It definitely helps us mentally.”
The Gamecocks came to Gainesville on the bubble for the SEC tournament in late May but left three games under .500 in the conference. Florida is now 31-14 and 13-8 in the SEC, one game behind Georgia in the SEC East.
South Carolina is now 27-18, 9-12 in conference play with three weekends remaining.
“We didn’t need to come down here and sweep, but we needed to win at least one,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “We didn’t help ourselves this week for sure.”Florida jumped on Gamecocks starter Blake Cooper right from the start, loading the bases with nobody out. Adams delivered a two-run single, Brandon McArthur hit a sacrifice fly and another run scored on an error.
In the second, Adams had another two-run single, and Matt den Dekker added a sacrifice fly to make it 7-0.
Meanwhile, Florida starter Alex Panteliodis kept working out of jams to hold USC scoreless through four innings. That was before the Gamecocks broke out their secret weapon — the fly ball.
Den Dekker misplayed a high fly into a triple that gave USC its first run. Panteliodis, a freshman who recorded his first SEC win, left the game in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out.
Greg Larson got Whit Merrifield to ground into a fielder’s choice before DeAngelo Mack lifted a fly to center. Den Dekker backed up on the ball forcing Daniel Piggott to race in from right. But Piggott couldn’t come up with the catch and three runs scored. Nick Ebert singled home another run to cut it to 9-5, but Nick Maronde and Billy Bullock finished off the Gamecocks the rest of the way.
“I’d take Matt den Dekker any day of the week,” O’Sullivan said. “It was just one of those days when the wind was blowing, and it was a high sky. You’ve gotta regroup and make pitches, and I was more excited about them making pitches.”
Florida outscored the Gamecocks 27-12 in the sweep, as left fielder Avery Barnes has eight hits on the weekend and scored six times.