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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Florida stumbles, drops final regular season game versus South Carolina

The Gators finish the regular season 0-19 when trailing after five innings.

<p>Florida&#x27;s Sterlin Thompson eyes a hit and runs down the first base line against Jacksonville on March 14, 2021. The Gators fell in the final game of the SEC Tournament Sunday to Tennessee.</p>

Florida's Sterlin Thompson eyes a hit and runs down the first base line against Jacksonville on March 14, 2021. The Gators fell in the final game of the SEC Tournament Sunday to Tennessee.

Another year, another senior day for Florida baseball. The 2022 regular season has been anything but smooth for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s group, and Saturday’s game versus South Carolina came just in time for one last bump in the road ahead of postseason play.

Instead of closing out the season with a positive conference record, UF stumbled to the finish line, closing out the regular season without a sweep and with one more underwhelming loss. 

Florida (35-20, 15-15) fell to South Carolina (27-27, 13-17) 4-1 in what could be the final game in Condron Ballpark for seven UF seniors. 

The Gators produced early in the weekend. It began with a 14-5 steamrolling of SC on Thursday, including four balls sent over the wall by UF bats. Florida’s dominance continued Friday as freshman pitcher Brandon Neely threw a career-high 10 strikeouts on the way to an 8-0 shutout.

The two wins brought the orange and blue to their first plus-.500 record in the Southeastern Conference since March 27. Sunday was an opportunity for UF to sweep and end the regular season on a high note. 

The Gamecocks were the first to strike this time around, sending off a solo-shot home run in the top of the first and adding another run in the second to take an early 2-0 lead. Florida attempted to respond, but deep balls from redshirt junior standouts Jud Fabian and BT Riopelle leaned foul on their way out. 

The Gators answered in the bottom of the second thanks to errors on South Carolina’s behalf. Freshman outfielder Ty Evans reached second on an error, then scored after SC catcher Colin Burgess fumbled the out at home plate. 

Pogue continued to struggle on the mound. The right-hander allowed another Gamecocks homer and put a runner on first base in the top of the third before a flyout got him out of the jam. 

After three innings, Florida trailed 3-1.

Things picked up for Pogue from there. He snagged three-straight 1-2-3 innings including two strikeouts in the top of the sixth. Heading into the bottom of the inning, the Gators were simply waiting for their bats to warm up. 

Forces of nature then put a pause on the game. It would be over an hour before Florida took the field again after a lengthy rain delay. Upon resuming, the Gamecocks continued to roll with their momentum, tacking on two more runs. UF is an abysmal 0-19 when trailing after the fifth inning, and nothing changed Sunday. 

“I think today kind of had a weird feel,” O’Sullivan said. “We lost our legs in crucial spots, but I think we’ve been playing well. We’ll just move on and get ready to play on Tuesday.” 

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Next up, Florida rematches South Carolina in Hoover, Alabama, for the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The Gators seemed to have the upper hand on the Gamecocks most of the weekend, but things could certainly play out differently with higher stakes. 

First pitch is set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. 

 

Contact Jackson Castellano at jcastellano@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @jaxacastellano.

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