Ben Specht needed one more strike.
As he nursed a one-run lead in the bottom of the 14th inning with two outs and a 0-2 count, he wound up and delivered the pitch.
Andrew Eyster’s bat cracked, and Specht watched helplessly as the ball retreated into the night and into the Gamecock bullpen to tie the game.
Two at-bats later, a double into the right-center gap from South Carolina catcher Colin Burgess sealed a 9-8 victory for the Gamecocks in the longest game in Florida baseball history.Florida, who rode high into Columbia after a sweep of Texas A&M, got off to a hot start in the opening inning. The Gamecocks’ starter Thomas Farr walked the opening three batters of the night before Kirby McMullen made it a 2-0 game with a weak line drive to right field.
Tommy Mace retired three of the first four batters in the opening inning, but control soon eluded him. South Carolina knocked four consecutive hits to begin the second inning and to cut the lead to one.
Later that inning, with the bases loaded, South Carolina leaped up 4-2 after a pair of singles from second baseman Braylen Winner and left fielder Josiah Sightler.
Jordan Butler’s sacrifice fly pulled Florida within a run, but South Carolina again led off the third with consecutive hits. A double play initiated by second baseman Colby Halter preserved the 4-3 score, but Mace’s couldn’t right the ship.
After allowing 19 hits in his first 30 innings in 2021, the junior gave up nine before his first out in the third. After his shortest outing of 2021, his night ended after four innings with 10 hits and 5 strikeouts.
Mace’s opposing pitcher appeared slightly off his game as well. Farr buckled down after the opening inning, with one hit and one walk against four strikeouts in the next three innings.
The house of cards collapsed again in the fifth inning. After a leadoff strikeout, he walked his fifth and sixth batters of the night before a two-RBI single from right fielder Sterlin Thompson chased him off the mound. The Gators led again, 5-4.
The Gators seemed to take control with one run in each of the next two innings, with a Jacob Young single to center field in the top of the seventh creating a 7-4 lead. However, South Carolina refused to go away, and a trio of hits and a pair of runs cut the deficit back to one with two innings to play.
After a South Carolina single, a misfielded bunt by pitcher Franco Aleman put the winning run on base for the Gamecocks in the bottom of the eighth. Wimmer doubled off the right field wall to tie the game, but South Carolina couldn’t capitalize further on loaded bases and the game remained tied with an inning to play.
South Carolina gifted the Gators an extension of their own when a dropped infield fly put two men in scoring position with two outs. Gamecock reliever Andrew Peters struck out Jud Fabian and silenced a potential rally.
After 24 hits, 13 walks and four hours, the game went to extra innings.
After all the offense, the closing innings morphed into a pitching contest.
Florida’s Christian Scott entered in the bottom of the eighth and allowed just two hits in 3.2 innings after the Wimmer double.
Peters entered in the ninth and matched Scott pitch for pitch. He held the Gators scoreless for four innings, struck out five and allowed a single hit.
The Gators’ Ben Specht, who hadn’t pitched in a month due to injury, and South Carolina’s Julian Bosnic, a typical Sunday starter, entered the game and didn’t allow a hit for twelve consecutive batters between them before Bostic blinked first.
Six innings removed from the most recent Florida run, designated hitter Nathan Hickey rocketed a ball to straightaway centerfield. South Carolina center fielder Brady Allen’s glove came up inches short and the Gators regained the lead, 8-7.
The Gator dugout swarmed Hickey at the plate in celebration, the end of a marathon game in sight.
Specht retired the first two batters via strikeout and groundout, but failed to end the inning as the Gamecocks mobbed Burgess on the base path in a celebration of their own.
Florida takes the field again in an attempt to tie the series Saturday at 4 p.m.
Contact Ryan Haley at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley
Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.