STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State opened its Southeastern Conference weekend baseball series with Florida on a positive note Friday night.
Behind a strong pitching start from Luis Pollorena and dominant closing by Jonathan Holder, the 17th-ranked Bulldogs took a 7-3 victory at Dudy Noble Field.
With the win, MSU improved to 25-8 overall and 4-6 in league play, while Florida fell to 14-17 and 4-6. The Bulldogs captured a Friday night win for the second time this season and will attempt to clinch its first series victory in conference play when the teams meet again at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Pollorena (5-1) drew his second straight series-opening start and garnered the win. In six innings of work, Pollorena allowed six hits and two runs (both earned), with four strikeouts and a walk. Ross Mitchell threw the seventh inning and was lifted after back-to-back hits in the eighth inning.
Holder completed the contest for his ninth save. While facing the minimum six batters, Holder retired each of them, including four by strikeouts.
“We really have needed to get Jonathan into games, we weren’t going to let this opportunity slip away,” MSU head coach John Cohen said.”He was dominant as always. Luis struggled in the first inning but regained his composure and gave us a great start.”
Pollorena was touched for a hit and allowed to walks as the Bulldogs’ first-inning struggles continued.
MSU quickly gained the momentum and the lead for good with four runs in the third inning.
Hunter Renfroe reached on a one-out error to start the big inning. Brett Pirtle then lined a game-tying double down the left field line. Wes Rea followed with a hit. C.T. Bradford and Mitch Slauter drew back-to-back walks. A passed ball scored the go-ahead run, while Sam Frost lined a sacrifice-fly to tack on another score. UF’s second error of the game extended the inning and pushed the lead to 4-1.
The Bulldogs ran the lead to 5-1 on a Rea RBI-single in fourth inning and later grabbed a 6-2 lead after Renfroe’s 10th home run of the year in the sixth inning.
“We had some really nice situational at-bats,” Cohen said. “We got some bunts down. We had some sacrifice flies. We did a lot of things well and had some really great at-bats.”
The Bulldogs finished with 10 hits, including multi-hit games by Renfroe, Pirtle, Rea and Mitch Slauter. Returning from illness, it was Slauter’s first appearance in the lineup since March 23.
Florida finished with eight hits. Taylor Gushue led the way with three doubles.
Jonathon Crawford (1-5) worked five innings and took the loss. Crawford allowed six hits and five runs (two earned), with four strikeouts and five walks.
In Saturday’s contest, MSU is scheduled to start senior right-hander Kendall Graveman (3-2, 2.43 ERA), while UF is scheduled to start freshman left-hander Danny Young (1-2, 3.12). The contest will be shown regionally by Cox Sports and Comcast Sports Southeast. The series finale is at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.