The matchup of two of college baseball’s best fastballs almost ended as soon as it started Friday night.
Florida pitcher Brady Singer, matched against Gamecocks starter Adam Hill in one the best pitching matchup thus far, hit T.J. Hopkins in the ribs in the bottom of the first inning, leading to a pointed stare from Hopkins, leading to words from Singer, leading to home plate umpire Scott Cline charging out to reprimand Singer, leading to Singer defending himself enthusiastically and Gators infielders and manager Kevin O’Sullivan hustling toward the mound to intervene.
Then Singer settled down. And the Gamecocks blew up. By the time Singer left the SEC opener, Hill had already been pulled from a disappointing outing, South Carolina head coach and left fielder Carlos Cortes had been ejected, and the Gamecocks trailed 5-1 in the seventh inning.
The final would be 7-3 in favor of the defending national champion and second-ranked Gators in one of the Gamecocks’ most-anticipated and oddest conference-openers in a while.
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Singer might be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft, and Hill might be pitching himself into the first round as South Carolina fans watch this season, but only one had his ace stuff Friday, and it was the Florida starter.
With Major League scouts stacked two-deep at seat after seat after seat in their designated area behind home plate at Founders Park, Singer (5-0) struck out six and allowed only two hits in seven innings, while Hill (2-2) labored.
The Gamecocks junior right-hander threw 98 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, striking out six but walking five and allowing three hits and three runs. Considering his last three outings had totaled 19 innings, 37 strikeouts and three hits, it qualified as a bump in the road, but Kingston didn’t think Hill was overwhelmed by the moment.
“He just wants wasn’t as sharp as he was against Clemson and a few other games,” Kingston said. “Left a few balls up, didn’t get ahead of hitters like he has been doing. He gave up three earned runs against the No. 1 team in America. That’s good enough.”
The Gamecocks staff considers anything more than three walks in a game by its staff to be a bad outing. South Carolina had seven against the Gators.
“It was a tough one for sure,” Hill said. “I didn’t have a whole lot going for me. I was having to battle through command issues, but I did my best to battle for my team and try to put us in a good spot for later in the game.”
Now Hill and the Gamecocks have to bounce back to get in a good spot later in this series.