Eli Jones watched as BT Riopelle whiff over a pitch. As the umpire called strike three, Jones let out a guttural yell toward Cole Messina as the South Carolina dugout–and sellout crowd–erupted.
It was one of a long line of jams Jones and the Gamecocks had to pitch out of Friday night, but they did in dramatic fashion as South Carolina beats Florida 5-2 to take the series.
It’s a massive series win for the Gamecocks, who beat the No. 3 team in the country without two starting position players available and Noah Hall still banged up.
After the offense flexed its muscle Thursday night, it was the pitching staff’s turn to show its strengths.
The Gamecocks (33-6, 12-4 SEC) pitched out of jam after jam throughout the entire game, stranding eight Gators over the course of the game.
Buoyed by early offense, South Carolina pitchers found ways out of trouble more often than not, holding Florida to just 3-for-20 with runners on and 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
For the seventh straight game, the Gamecocks put up at least one run in the first inning. Typically, it was Ethan Petry doing something but Friday night it was Cole Messina answering the bell.
With South Carolina trailing by a run, Messina launched a two-run, 393-foot shot to left field to give the Gamecocks the lead.
Petry, despite not homering in the first inning, had to wait all the way until the second inning to hit his homer. It was a gorgeous three-run blast, his 20th of the season, he lasered out of the stadium.
It was just enough for Mahoney to work with, putting together a productive yet laborious outing against this threatening lineup.
After giving up a solo homer in the first inning, Mahoney threw up three scoreless while pitching out of big jams in the fourth and fifth innings.
Florida put runners on second and third with just one away in the fourth before a pop up in shallow center and a groundout.
Mahoney didn’t get as lucky in the fifth, running out of gas and giving up a run on a wild pitch before getting out of a two-on, one-out jam with a double play.
Despite laboring at the end, Mahoney gave up just a pair of runs, finishing with three walks and strikeouts apiece. It was one of his better starts, especially in SEC play.
It’s tied for his second-longest start in the league and the first time he went at least five innings since the Mississippi State series.
Eli Jones delivered arguably his best outing out of the bullpen, scattering three hits over three scoreless innings while striking out four.
His only real trouble came in the seventh when he put two on with one out, but he’d slither his way out of it with a fly out and the ever-important swinging strikeout to Riopelle.
Chris Veach came in with a man on in the ninth and get the save, punctuated by a strikeout of Jac Caglianone.
South Carolina offensively would be held down by Hurston Waldrep after the second inning, going three straight innings without a base runner. The Gamecocks got Waldrep out of the game after the sixth inning but not without missing a big chance.
They’d put runners on the corners with no one out but would strike out three straight times to end the inning.
It wasn’t a dominant outing offenisvely, but the pitching was elite and helped the Gamecocks to a series win.
Up next: Game three of the series is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on the SEC Network Plus. Florida will start Jac Caglianone (5-1, 4.96 ERA) while South Carolina hasn’t named a starter yet.
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