COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina baseball team dropped its first SEC series of the season with a 3-2 loss to No. 2 Florida on Sunday afternoon at Founders Park.
It was South Carolina’s first opening series loss in SEC play since 2012 against Kentucky.
“Our job is to go toe-to-toe with anybody,” coach Mark Kingston said. “We did that. We came up one run short [Sunday] from wining the series, so it doesn’t mean we haven’t gotten stronger. It doesn’t mean we’re not learning more about our team. It doesn’t mean we’re not making more progress that will help us down the road.
“We did lose today and it’s disappointing, but we are getting better. We are getting closer and we’re getting stronger as a team.”
Ten Gamecocks (13-7, 1-2 SEC) were left on base Sunday. As a team, they went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
“We faced another first-rounder today and we took great at-bats all day,” Kingston said. “Didn’t get as many hits as we did yesterday, but we only struck out five times in five innings against [Tyler Dyson]. Made him throw 115 pitches in five innings, which is a really, really good job an offense.
“I thought our guys played their hearts out today. They played to win. I’ll go to battle with that team every day, if we play like that.”
South Carolina’s pitchers limited a potent offensive attack from Florida, which totaled 14 runs and 19 hits over first two games of the series.
In his third Sunday start of the season, junior college transfer Ridge Chapman (1-2) tossed 72 pitches over 4 innings, during which he gave up 3 hits and had a strikeout. Two of the hits were leadoff home runs.
After Wil Dalton’s homer in the first, his third of the series, Jonathan India tripled off the wall in left-center, but Chapman left him there and went on to retire the next seven batters. J.J. Schwarz snapped the perfect stretch with a homer in the fourth.
Florida scored one more in the inning when India scored from third base on a sacrifice fly, which followed an errant throw on a pickoff attempt at first.
“Really,” Kingston said, “That was the difference in the ball game.”
South Carolina cut the lead to 3-1 in the bottom half of the inning when Danny Blair bounced a 2-out single up the middle, but the Gamecocks left a pair of runners on base when Noah Campbell popped out to second.
L.T. Tolbert and Matt Williams reached with back-to-back singles in the fifth, but neither Jonah Bride nor Carlos Cortes were able to drive them in.
Jacob Olson led off the sixth with a solo shot. Dyson (4-1) hit Chris Cullen on his next pitch and was then pulled by Florida (18-4, 2-1 SEC) coach Kevin O’Sullivan, after giving up 6 hits with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks over 115 pitches.
“I think we need to just keep doing what we’re doing,” Olson said. “We’re hitting the ball hard, so I think, if we just stick with it, they’ll start to fall.”
South Carolina’s Parker Coyne worked a perfect fifth inning then gave way to Eddy Demurias in the sixth, following a leadoff walk to India. Demurias shut down the inning with a pair of strikeouts, the second of which ended the frame when Chris Cullen threw out India as he was trying to steal second.
Demurias, who began his college career Florida, finished with 4 strikeouts, 1 hit and a walk over 4 innings.
“Eddy was outstanding. Eddy wanted to be good this weekend and he was really good,” Kingston said.
South Carolina returns to action on Tuesday at The Citadel. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. SEC play resumes next weekend on the road against Georgia.
“We played hard all three games [versus Florida],” Olson said. “We grew as a team this weekend and I think taking that into the rest of the season is going to be really good for us.”