COLUMBIA -- Ray Tanner came home Sunday from Florida with a head cold. South Carolina's baseball coach still sounded pretty upbeat, though, after his team took two of three from the former No. 1 team in the country.
The Gamecocks scrapped their way to Friday and Sunday wins against Florida, which had been atop Baseball America's Top 25 poll since the preseason and likely possesses the best starting rotation in the country.
"We beat a really, really good team," USC coach Ray Tanner said Monday on Columbia's 107.5 "The Game." "That Florida team has a pitching staff that's as good as any I've seen in a really, really long time."
The Gamecocks (18-5, 4-2 SEC) jumped to No. 3 in the new poll, behind new No. 1 Vanderbilt and second-ranked Virginia. Vandy comes to Columbia next month.
Against Florida, the Gamecocks got to Friday night starter Brian Johnson in a 9-2 victory that, after scoring 41 runs in midweek wins against Charleston and Rhode Island, continued the team's trend of hot hitting.
All nine starters in the lineup had at least one hit, and designated hitter Jake Williams went 3 for 5 with a home run. Starter Michael Roth went 8 1/3 innings to get his fifth victory of the season.
South Carolina struggled Saturday to make contact against Gators right-hander Hudson Randall, who was masterful in setting down 19 consecutive batters to end a five-hit complete game -- a 2-1 Florida win to even the series.
But USC rebounded Sunday to rally from a 3-0 deficit, tying the game with three in the sixth and then plating the winning run on Adrian Morales' bases-loaded walk in the eighth. Matt Price, despite going two innings Saturday in a loss, came back to get the final seven outs and the victory.
The Gamecocks hung around Saturday and won Sunday despite going with two pitchers, freshman right-hander Forrest Koumas and junior left-hander Bryan Harper, who had not previously started for USC.
Koumas was outstanding, holding the Gators to a run in six innings. Harper struggled with his control, but then handed off to Colby Holmes, who likely earned a weekend start after three scoreless innings. Holmes was strong earlier in the week, earning the victory against Charleston.
The pitching rotation was thrown into the air after left-hander Steven Neff, set to start Saturday, encountered some shoulder tenderness and was scratched. Associate head coach Chad Holbrook called Neff's issue tendinitis. Tanner later said it was a biceps strain, perhaps the result of weightlifting and not pitching.
In either case, Neff is not expected to pitch this weekend against Kentucky, a team that took two of three from USC a year ago.
The Gamecocks could also be without rightfielder Adam Matthews, who tweaked his right hamstring legging out a double in the ninth inning Sunday. Tanner said Matthews was "maybe unlikely" for the Kentucky series.
The Gamecocks first host The Citadel on Wednesday at Carolina Stadium. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. The Bulldogs last visited the stadium in June for the NCAA Regional, South Carolina's first steps to the national title.
South Carolina had to rally from a 4-2 deficit to get past The Citadel, 9-4.
"We always have good games," Tanner said. "It usually doesn't matter what we've been doing and what they've been doing."
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.