GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – A five-run fifth inning was the difference as No. 10 Mississippi State dropped an 8-2 decision to No. 1 Florida in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at McKethan Stadium.
MSU fell in a series opener for the first time this season, while dropping to 21-9-1 overall and 6-4 in league play. The Bulldogs will maintain at least a tie of the Western Division lead entering Saturday’s play. Florida won its 29th-straight home game, while moving to 29-3 overall and 7-2 in the league.
“One inning changed the complexion of the game,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “They didn’t hit the ball hard but they found holes. Dakota [Hudson] pitched well. We struggled defensively. We lost a couple of balls in the sky. It was not a pretty game. Offensively, we competed hard.”
The Bulldogs actually built a 2-0 lead with a pair of scores in the second inning.
Elih Marrero started things with a one-out triple. Brent Rooker was then hit by a pitch. John Holland hit a ground ball which brought home Marrero, while Ryan Gridley singled to score Rooker.
Florida took advantage of some shaky defense to score in the third inning. A two-out error was followed by a base hit, walk and wild pitch for the Gators’ first run.
The Bulldogs then failed to convert on a chance to expand the lead in the fifth inning. Jake Mangum had a leadoff single and Nathaniel Lowe had a one-out single.
However, Florida ace Logan Shore came back with a strikeout and flyout to end the threat.
MSU ace Hudson was not nearly as fortune in the home half of the fifth inning when Florida struck for five runs on seven base hits. The first six Gators reached safely in that at-bat with a two-run single by J.J. Schwarz being the big blow in that inning. That hit gave the hosts a 5-2 lead.
Florida plated two insurance scores in the eighth inning.
Hudson (4-2) threw five innings, allowing eight hits and six runs (five earned), with three strikeouts and two walks. Jacob Billingsley, Keegan James and Ethan Small pitched in relief.
Shore (6-0) threw 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and two runs (both earned), with no walks and four strikeouts.
Florida finished with 12 hits. Dalton Guthrie had three hits, while Schwarz and Nelson Maldonado each had two hits.
MSU finished with 11 hits. Mangum had three hits. Rooker and Gridley had multiple hits. The Bulldogs stranded 10 base runners.
MSU and Florida continue the series tomorrow at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be available nationally on SEC Network +, which fans can access through the WatchESPN app.