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Florida loses 7-3 to Gamecocks in its CWS opener

Associated Press Modified: June 17, 2012 at 1:16 am •  Published: June 17, 2012
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Florida couldn't overcome one bad inning on Saturday night, and now the top-seeded Gators find themselves fighting for survival at the College World Series.

Erik Payne's bases-loaded triple gave two-time defending champion South Carolina the lead in a five-run fifth inning, and the Gamecocks went on to win 7-3.

South Carolina (46-17) extended its record NCAA-tournament win streak to 22 games by beating its SEC rival and 2011 national runner-up for only the second time in five tries this season.

"There's a reason why they have such a winning streak in the postseason," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They had some momentum there in the fifth, and it felt like it just got passed down from guy to guy. Obviously we weren't able to stop it there in the fifth, and that was probably the difference in the ball game."

Michael Roth (8-1) turned in another strong CWS start in his eighth appearance in three years in Omaha. He left with one out in the seventh after Florida's first two batters reached in a two-run game. Tyler Webb got the Gamecocks out of trouble, and Matt Price pitched the last two innings — pitching around two singles in the ninth — for his 12th save of the season and SEC-record 42nd of his career.

Payne's triple made a loser of Brian Johnson (8-5).

The Gators will try to stay alive in an elimination game Monday against Kent State.

"Obviously you have to have pitching in this tournament to win ball games, and I think that's one thing our team has," right fielder Preston Tucker said. "It's going to be tough but it's been done before. If anyone can do it we can. We've got a great bullpen. We've got guys we trust. And I think that we got a good shot if we go out there and pitch the way we know we can."

After batting just .219 in losing three of their first four against the Gators this season, the Gamecocks had 12 hits against six pitchers.

The Gamecocks were 0 for their first 9 with runners in scoring position Saturday and they stranded seven through four innings, including leaving the bases loaded in the first.

Evan Marzilli hit his second double of the game leading off the fifth, and Johnson walked Adam Matthews to load the bases with none out.

Payne, the designated hitter who appeared in only one of the Gamecocks' previous five games, drove a low liner into the right-center gap. LB Dantzler then knocked out Johnson with a double to deep center for a 4-2 lead.

Dantzler came home on Chase Vergason's single up the middle off Greg Larson. The five runs matched the most allowed by Florida in an inning this season.

Johnson had beaten the Gamecocks twice this season, allowing a combined four runs and 10 hits over 15 innings. He was charged with all five runs in his four-plus innings Saturday, and the three walks he issued equaled his career high.

The Gators had given Johnson a 2-0 lead in the third. Freshman Tanner English hesitated before giving chase on Preston Tucker's liner to left. The ball went over English's head, allowing two runs to score.

Florida wasn't finished after South Carolina's big inning. Mike Zunino's sacrifice fly got Florida to 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth and looked to add more against Roth in the seventh before Webb came in to settle things down after the Gators put runners on second and third.

Price came on to start the eighth. Marzilli made a full-extension diving catch of Pigott's drive into the left-center gap — the best catch of the CWS so far — to keep the Gators from getting anything started.

The Gamecocks converted a wild pitch and two errors into a couple insurance runs in the ninth.

Roth came into the game with opponents batting just .215 against him. More important, he's a proven CWS stalwart, and there was no question he would get the ball for the Gamecocks' opener.

He started but got no decision in their title-clinching win over UCLA in 2010. Last year he started and won the second game of the Gamecocks' two-game sweep of the Gators.

Roth issued a walk each of the first two innings but was humming along nicely until Tucker's drive to left burned English. Roth allowed three hits on seven hits and three walks.


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