Mark Kingston previews Florida series, talks tall task facing Gamecocks in SEC play
South Carolina baseball has leaned heavily on Reid Morgan all year, as the junior pitcher has become the Gamecocks’ steadiest starter while injuries and inexperience challenged the pitching staff.
But in Morgan’s first series opening start of the season Thursday, a six-run third inning sunk him against Florida, as Carolina fell 9-5 to open its three-game set in Gainesville.
After breezing through two perfect innings to start, Morgan quickly lost control in the third, walking the first two batters and then surrendering a three-run home run to right field from sophomore Brady McConnell.
McConnell’s homer was the first of five consecutive hits for Florida — a double and three singles in a row plated two more runs. After a pop-out put two outs on the board, another single scored a sixth run. Those six runs were more than Morgan had given up in any start this season.
The Gamecocks (20-14, 3-10 SEC) got one run back in the fifth after leadoff batter Jonah Beamon walked. The freshman DH then went to second on a wild pitch and third on a groundout before scoring on a sacrifice fly from junior shortstop George Callil.
Florida, however, responded with a mini two-out rally in the bottom half of the frame, using a single and double from freshman Cory Acton to go up 7-1.
The Gators did give Carolina some help in the seventh inning, as redshirt freshman reliever Hunter Ruth put runners on second and third after a walk by Beamon and a double from sophomore second baseman Noah Campbell, then let them score on back-to-back wild pitches.
But South Carolina struggled all night to take advantage of eight walks issued by Florida pitching and finished the game hitting 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
UF, meanwhile padded its lead in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with a single, double and walk then scoring a pair off a wild pitch and sacrifice fly.
USC managed to snag a few final runs in the ninth off an RBI double from pinch hitter Ian Jenkins and a sac fly from senior center fielder TJ Hopkins, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the team’s fifth consecutive SEC series-opening loss.
Next: The Gamecocks and Gators play the middle game of their set Friday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be streamed online on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN.