Florida Gators surrender 9 runs in loss to South Carolina

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Gators’ pitching staff has not performed up to expectations lately. On Saturday night, the Gators lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks, 9-8, marking the fourth consecutive game the pitching staff has surrendered at least nine runs to an opponent.

The pitching struggles have contributed to the Gators’ six-game losing streak. They have also hindered their success against South Carolina, as the Gators have dropped the first two games of the three-game series, snapping a 15-series win streak at Condron Family Ballpark that dates back to 2022.

“There’s just a lot of things that we’re doing that are not allowing us to be successful,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “A lot of it does come down to pitching, too… When you start adding all this stuff up, it’s the difference between winning or losing one-run games.”

Florida starting pitcher Pierce Coppola made his highly anticipated return to action on Saturday after being out for 783 days. The eagerly awaited comeback marked the second collegiate appearance for the highly-touted left-handed pitcher, who last pitched in 2022 and had to overcome back and shoulder injuries.

Coppola allowed four runs on three hits, one walk and three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings. He was on a pitch count and didn’t provide the Gators with the initial spark O’Sullivan hoped for in his return to the mound. However, the appearance allowed him to shake off the rust, and O’Sullivan believes he can serve as a valuable piece of the Gators’ pitching staff moving forward.

“It was great to have Pierce back. It was good to see him,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s put in a lot of hard work to get back… Certainly, hoping as we move forward, he’s going to be able to help us for sure.”

Coppola exited the game in the second inning, with Liam Peterson replacing him in relief. South Carolina (25-10, 8-6 SEC) continued to tack onto its lead, with Peterson allowing two runs on three hits and four walks in two innings. Blake Purnell followed Peterson and also struggled out of the bullpen, allowing three runs on three hits and one walk.

Coming off a College World Series berth and No. 2 ranking in the preseason poll to start this season, the struggling Gators are 17-17 on the season, including 6-8 in SEC play.

As the team’s sense of urgency continues to rise, O’Sullivan emphasized the importance of fixing details like pitching.

“Without getting into details, on March 6th, I had a meeting right in here with the team, probably lasted 45 minutes,” O’Sullivan said. “The very things that I talked about on March 6th are the very things that are still going on now… The same mistakes that we’re making now, are the same ones that we’re making five weeks from that meeting.

“So, everything from the hitting, down to the pitching, down to everything. This is not something that just happened overnight. We’ve talked about it, and tried to be very specific with them about it. I’ve been doing this long enough to know even though you might be winning some games and some series, that you’re not playing fundamentally clean, winning baseball…”

The Gators will look to avoid the series sweep against South Carolina at noon ET Sunday at Condron Family Ballpark.

Ava Baccari
Ava Baccari
Ava Baccari is a junior undergraduate student at the University of Florida. She is majoring in Journalism with a specialization in Sports and Media. Follow her on X (Twitter) @avabsports.

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