The No. 4 Florida Gators (26-7, 9-3 SEC) clinched the weekend series against Mississippi State (21-11, 5-7 SEC) Sunday , winning the rubber game 3-1. The Gators lost the opener Friday night 7-5, then came back Saturday with an 18-0 victory to even the series. The two schools played in front of over 24,000 at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville over the three games during Super Bulldog Weekend.
RHP Karsten Whitson (4-0) started on the mound for the Gators, surrendering one run (earned) on five hits, walking two, and striking out three in 5.1 IP. LHP Steven Rodriguez (2-1)picked up the win, striking out three of the five batters he faced in 1.2 IP.
Mississippi State opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning. With two outs, Jonathan Ogden (SS) singled to second base, and advanced a base after Adam Frazier singled through the left side. Jaron Shepherd (RF) walked to load the bases. The following batter, Wes Thigpen (C), singled into left field, scoring Ogden. Frazier also rounded third and headed home, but Daniel Pigott (LF) threw to Mike Zunino (C), who tagged Frazier out as he dove for the plate to end the inning 1-0, Bulldogs.
Florida evened the score at one-a-piece in the fourth with one out. After back-to-back singles by Zunino and Brian Johnson (DH), Maddox sent a grounder to third base that went past the glove of Jarrod Parks (3B) into left field, scoring Zunino. With two men on, LHP Nick Routt retired the next two batters, Tyler Thompson (CF) and Pigott to end the Gators’ half of the frame.
The score remained at a 1-1 stalemate until Florida was able to come out of the seventh with two runs to go ahead 3-1. With two gone, Zack Powers (3B) singled through the right side, and advanced to second on a wild pitch with Nolan Fontana (SS) at the plate. Luis Pollorena, on the mound for the Bulldogs, issued Fontana a walk. Josh Adams (2B) hit the ball directly to Ogden at short stop, but the ball got stuck in his glove and he was unable to make the throw, loading the bases. Preston Tucker (RF) singled up the middle scoring both Powers and Fontana, unearned. After the two runs Mississippi State head coach John Cohen, replaced Pollorena with RHP Caleb Reed who struck Zunino out swinging for the final out of the inning.
The Bulldogs made a late push in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t capitalize with the bases loaded, ending the game with the score 3-1 Gators.
The Gators will make the day trip to Tallahassee on Tuesday to complete the four-game season series against No. 8 Florida State (23-9, 9-6 ACC). The Seminole are 2-1 against the Gators in the previous three meeting this year: 5-3 FSU in Tampa on March 1rst; 5-4 (10 innings) UF in Gainesville on March 15th; 5-2 FSU in Jacksonville on March 29th.
The Gators resume their SEC schedule with a three game series against Georgia in Athens beginning Friday, April 15.