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March 23, 2012

Gators take Game 2, set up rubber match

VIDEO: Ray Tanner

One of Ray Tanner's favorite expressions described it.

"It's baseball."

A day after everything was thought to be solved in a 9-3 South Carolina rout of No. 1 Florida, the No. 8 Gamecocks were blistered 8-2 on Friday by the Gators. Florida (21-2, 4-1 SEC) jumped on starter Forrest Koumas for five runs in the first inning and USC never recovered.

"Very difficult for us, especially with the five-run first," Tanner said. "We just weren't able to muster enough offense."

USC (17-6, 1-4) had its one-game win streak abruptly snapped and will try to claim the series at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Colby Holmes (3-0, 1.88 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Gamecocks.

"We absolutely intend to get this series," said first baseman Christian Walker, who cracked his third home run. "They're a good team. They're not going to let us push them around."

The Gamecocks were riding the momentum after a thrilling win on Thursday, but Florida immediately took it. Koumas struck out Nolan Fontana to start the game, then gave up a single to Daniel Pigott and walked Preston Tucker.

Reigning SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino knew what to do with a first-pitch fastball and walloped it out of the park. Brian Johnson followed with a solo shot that just cleared the wall in left.

Suddenly down 4-0, Koumas (1-2) tried to regroup. He walked Taylor Gushue as his control vanished, then walked Casey Turgeon and gave up a single to Josh Tobias.

With Cody Dent at the plate, Koumas worked him 0-2, but then balked to give Gushue a free pass home. Trailing 5-0, Koumas punched out Dent and Fontana (for the second time in the frame), but was lifted after walking Pigott to start the second.

Koumas was put back into the starting rotation after Matt Price was relegated back to closer, and then won Thursday's game. Tanner said he would keep Price in the bullpen for the time being, and that Price would be available to pitch if need be on Saturday.

Koumas, who performed well in some huge situations as a freshman last year, should get another chance. Tanner thought that Koumas' arm was live, but he just lost control after Zunino's three-run tonk.

"I felt pretty good coming out. They're a great hitting team," Koumas said. "When I threw it in there, they hit it. I'm ready to get back out there and kind of erase that one out of my head."

USC stayed even after the five-run outburst, Nolan Belcher, Patrick Sullivan and Logan Munson shutting the Gators down out of the bullpen. Belcher and Munson were each touched for a home run by Vickash Ramjit, who took over at third when Tobias injured his hand, but other than that, the Gators were quiet after Johnson drove in Koumas' final batter in the second inning.

The Gamecocks, though, couldn't solve Johnson. He flummoxed them to the tune of four hits, one of them Walker's homer and another an RBI double from Brison Celek. Johnson turned the game over to Greg Larson and Daniel Gibson, and USC was held to the odd hit or two for the duration.

Box score

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D. McCallum

South Carolina NEWS


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