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Florida denies South Carolina first SEC softball tournament title in 18 years

South Carolina softball was denied a chance at history Saturday evening.

The third-seeded Gamecocks, appearing in the SEC tournament championship game for the first time in 17 years, fell 3-1 to top-seeded Florida in Columbia, Missouri. USC (45-14) was seeking its first league title since 2000.

Florida (50-8) is now 39-1 in its past 40 games against Carolina. The Gators have won this event four times since 2008.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to an RBI sacrifice fly from Cayla Drotar, the Gamecocks ran into trouble two frames later. Pitcher Kelsey Oh, a national freshman of the year candidate, labored through 38 tosses in the third. Pitch No. 31 was taken to center field for a three-run homer by Gator and SEC player of the year, Amanda Lorenz.

Oh went five innings, allowing three runs on four hits. She struck out four batters and walked another. Drotar, who missed Friday's start with back stiffness, relieved Oh. USC managed just two hits against Florida starter Aleshia Ocasio. Ocasio retired Carolina's final 11 batters in order.

The Gamecocks are expected to be an NCAA regional host when the 64-team field is revealed Sunday evening. ESPN2 will host the selection show at 10 p.m. USC was last a No. 1 seed in a Columbia regional in 2002. It last went to the College World Series in 1997.

The run in Missouri attracted the likes of USC's Ray Tanner, Dawn Staley and Beverly Smith's parents to the championship game.

"It's awesome," Smith said during an in-game interview with ESPN. "Ray Tanner, our athletic director, flew in and he asked my parents to come with him. And then coach Staley coming, I think it speaks a lot about our leadership and Gamecock Nation."

South Carolina's Drotar, Tiara Duffy and Dixie Raley made the All-SEC tournament team.

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