South Carolina baseball had its first SEC series win of the year just a strike away on Saturday.
Then, everything fell apart as Florida got a three-run walk-off home run to top the Gamecocks, 6-4, and hand USC its fifth consecutive series loss.
UF freshman Jordan Butler had the game-winning slam, a shot to right field against freshman reliever Wesley Sweatt, who struck out the first two batters in the ninth and had a 3-2 count on the next one before losing control as rain poured down in Gainesville. He would up walking that batter and the next one before Butler’s homer, the first baseman’s second on the day.
Prior to that, Carolina (21-15, 4-11 SEC) had never trailed in the rubber match — freshman left fielder Brady Allen kicked off the scoring in the top of the second inning with a solo home run to left field.
Florida responded in the bottom half of the frame with a solo blast of its own from Butler, but South Carolina edged back ahead in the third with back-to-back two-out doubles from senior center fielder TJ Hopkins and sophomore catcher Luke Berryhill.
UF came right back again in the bottom half of the frame — a leadoff walk against sophomore starter TJ Shook reached second on a stolen base then scored on a two-out single from junior Austin Langworthy.
USC regained the lead in the fifth, as sophomore second baseman Noah Campbell led off with a single, followed by another single from junior shortstop George Callil to put runners on the corners. Hopkins then grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring one run, and stole second, allowing him to score on a single from senior right fielder Jacob Olson.
Shook, along with relievers John Gilreath, a sophomore, and Sawyer Bridges, a junior, had to escape their fair share of jams throughout the game — Florida wound up leaving eight runners on base on the day.
Gilreath was tagged for one run in the seventh after letting a runner aboard with a walk. Bridges then replaced him and gave up a walk and single to let the inherited runner score.
Sweatt took over in the eighth and worked around a pair of singles to post a scoreless frame, but as the rain began to pick up, his control declined. Just before Butler’s walk-off homer, the grounds crew at McKethan Stadium came out to apply a drying agent to the mound.
South Carolina was in position to take the series victory after winning 6-3 on Friday, in large part thanks to four early home runs and a career-best start from redshirt freshman Cam Tringali.
Next: The Gamecocks return to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte on Tuesday to play North Carolina at 7 p.m.