From staff reports/Photo by Jenny Dilworth
South Carolina suffered another crushing defeat Saturday, blowing an eighth-inning lead and falling to Florida 7-5 in a series-deciding Game 3 against the Gators.
The Gamecocks led 5-3 going into the eighth inning when Florida started the inning with back-to-back singles against Josh Reagan. Colie Bowers relieved Reagan and walked Nelson Maldonado, who had homered earlier in the game, to load the bases. JJ Swartz followed with a grand slam off Bowers to give Florida the lead.
“Obviously a heartbreaking loss," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "Our kids played their tails off for eight innings and you have one bad little spurt there and it cost us the game. It’s heartbreaking for our kids because they laid it out on the line."
The Gamecocks fell to 24-15 and 9-9 in the SEC. South Carolina has lost four straight SEC series. Florida improved to 27-13, 10-8.
The loss marked the third late-inning lead South Carolina has blown in its last three SEC series. The Gamecocks have lost 12 games by two runs or less.
Gamecock pitchers walked eight batters, three which scored. Of Carolina's 18 SEC games, 13 have been decided by three runs or less. The Gamecocks are 4-9 in those games.
"Didn’t throw it well there in that (eighth) inning," Holbrook said. "It’s a tough loss.”
South Carolina took the lead 5-3 in the seventh on a two-run home run by Chris Cullen.
The Gamecocks took a 2-0 lead in the first when TJ Hopkins led off the game with a single and scored on LT Tolbert's bloop double. Tolbert scored on an RBI groundout by Carlos Cortes.
Florida tied the game with a pair of RBI groundouts in the second and third innings. South Carolina regained the lead in the fifth when Hopkins led off with a single and scored on Cortes' RBI double.
Florida tied it in the sixth when Reagan gave up a solo homer to Maldonado.
Jacob Olson led South Carolina with three hits, while Hopkins, Tolbert and Cortes had two hits each. The Gamecocks outhit Florida 13-7.
South Carolina plays host to SEC East-leading Kentucky next weekend.