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Gators even series with Gamecocks

Although delayed for 79 minutes at the outset due to lightning and rain, No. 1 Florida (21-2/4-1 SEC) used a five-run first inning and clubbed a season-high four homers in an 8-2 victory over No. 6 South Carolina (17-6/1-4 SEC) that evened the teams’ series on Friday night at sold-out Carolina Stadium.

Vickash Ramjit

Juniors Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (1-for-4, three RBI) and Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5, two RBI) delivered back-to-back homers in the first inning and junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) (3-for-4) connected on solo shots in both the sixth and ninth frames for the first multiple-dinger outing of his career. Johnson (4-0) allowed two runs and five hits over six innings to earn the win, while UF totaled 11 hits and also drew a season-high 10 walks.

The Gators sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning against USC sophomore Forrest Koumas (1-2) and plated five runs, highlighted by back-to-back homers from Zunino and Johnson. Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (1-for-3, two runs) had a one-out single into left field and senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-2) followed with his first of three walks in the contest. Zunino then launched Koumas’ first offering deep to left field for his eighth round-tripper and Johnson belted the next pitch out of the yard for his second dinger of the year. It marked the second time this season that Florida had connected on consecutive homers, as Johnson and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) accomplished the feat in the fourth inning at Miami (Fla.) on March 3. Gushue and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) drew consecutive walks and freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) loaded the bases with a flare into right center. Koumas struck out junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) but was charged with a balk that enabled Gushue to come in for a 5-0 lead. It was the fifth time this season that the Gators scored five runs in an inning. Koumas whiffed junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) to close the frame.

Johnson helped himself with a two-out RBI single in the second inning to expand UF’s lead to 6-0. A leadoff walk to Pigott ended the night for Koumas (1.0 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 5 BB, 3 K). Junior Nolan Belcher inherited a 2-0 count and threw two balls to Tucker for a pair of runners aboard. Although the right-hander had Zunino ground into a 4-3 double play, moving Pigott to third, Johnson delivered a single into right field for a six-run margin.

Junior Christian Walker started the Gamecocks’ fourth with a homer to left field, his third big fly of the season. Johnson countered by setting down the next three hitters to keep the score 6-1.

Ramjit began the sixth with his first homer of the year into the visitor’s bullpen in left center to give the Gators a 7-1 advantage and Dent followed with a bunt single. After Dent was thrown out attempting to steal second, Belcher had Fontana ground out. Pigott drew a two-out walk and took third on a base-hit into right field by Tucker, prompting a call to the bullpen. Junior Patrick Sullivan replaced Belcher (4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R) and had a grounder by Zunino force Tucker at second base to complete the inning.

Johnson retired eight-straight Gamecocks before issuing a two-out walk in the sixth to Walker. Sophomore Brison Celek (2-for-4) scored his teammate all the way from first base with an RBI double into left center for a 7-2 count and Johnson had junior LB Dantzler ground out to strand the runner.

Back-to-back singles by sophomore Erik Payne and senior Adam Matthews in the seventh ended the night for Johnson (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 K, 2 BB). Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over on the hill and had a fielder’s choice by freshman Tanner English erase Matthews at second base for the first out. Sophomore Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) entered the ballgame and struck out freshman TJ Costen and had junior Evan Marzilli ground out to preserve the five-run lead.

Ramjit, who had entered the game with one career homer, completed the scoring with a solo bomb with two down in the ninth off senior Logan Munson. Florida held an 11-6 advantage in hits and neither team committed any errors.

In a meeting of right-handers, sophomore Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) (4-3, 4.43) will be making his first SEC road start in Saturday’s series finale versus USC junior Colby Holmes (3-0, 1.88). The game will be shown on CSS (Channel 259 on the Cox Communications cable system in Gainesville) at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on WRUF SportsRadio 850.

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