Florida reignites, shells S. Carolina 7-2

HOOVER, Ala. -- The University of Florida Gators saw red Friday night at the SEC baseball tournament. The third-seeded Gators jumped on the South Carolina Gamecocks from the start, putting up four runs in the first three innings on their way to a 7-2 win and a shot at a semifinal rematch against Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon.

The UF offense started the tournament strong with a 6-1 win over Auburn on Tuesday, but came to a screeching halt Thursday against the fifth-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores, losing 3-2. Coming into the postseason, UF had handled Vanderbilt in 2012, going undefeated in three matchups.

Four batters had multiple hits against South Carolina on Friday night. Catcher Mike Zunino led all hitters with three RBIs, two of which came on a laser home run over the left field fence in the top of the third inning.

Shortstop Nolan Fontana turned in a good night from the leadoff spot, going 2-for-3 at the plate for three runs. Second baseman Casey Turgeon connected on a few pitches as well, finishing 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he spoke to his team about coming out with a bang offensively against the Gamecocks, something they achieved in spades.

“Nolan set the tone hitting a double in the first,” O’Sullivan said. “We had first and third and was hoping we’d score more than one there. But just getting one, obviously, was big for us. I thought we had quality at-bats all night long.

Left-hander Brian Johnson started the game for UF and controlled the tempo while pitching with a comfortable lead. He needed just 88 pitches for the complete game, finishing with seven one-pitch outs. He struck out five strikeouts and allowed two earned runs.

“I think it’s his first (complete game) of his career,” O’Sullivan said. “He threw the ball really good. He got us off to a great start. I think scoring in the first few innings gave him a little bit of a cushion with three runs. He commanded the ball tonight and did a really good job of keeping his pitch count down.

“He’s been pitching really good as of late, so hopefully he’ll stay in this groove.”

With the loss, South Carolina was eliminated from the conference championship and will have to wait to learn their postseason fate on Monday when the NCAA releases tournament seedings. The Gamecocks, who were the two-seed in Hoover, are expected to earn a high seed in the national tournament as well. Last season, South Carolina beat Florida to win its second College World Series in as many years.