Miss State Forces Game 3 With Walk-Off

The Mississippi State Bulldogs (38-24) kept their College World Series hopes alive defeating the Florida Gators (49-17) 4-3 with a two run walk-off shot by Nick Vickerson to force a game three on Sunday.

The Gator’s starter RHP Karsten Whitson allowed two earned runs on four hits, one walk and six strikeouts in 6.1 IP. Beginning with one out in the third inning Whitson retired 13 straight before giving up three consecutive singles in the seventh, the first single he allowed was to Vickerson, who eventually scored Mississippi’s first run of the afternoon. Bulldog southpaw Nick Routt pitched 3.2 innings allowing two earned runs on seven hits before making way for RHP Caleb Reed, who would be the winning pitcher of record.

The first two innings were blanks, but Florida opened up the scoring in the top of the third. Cody Dent led off with a single to shortstop followed by a double by Bryson Smith off the wall in center field that Bulldogs right fielder Jaron Shepherd couldn’t hang on to. With both runners in scoring position and no outs, Nolan Fontana’s sacrifice fly to left field scored Dent, but Smith would be left at second after Mike Zunino lined out and Preston Tucker grounded out.

The next inning Florida extended their lead on a leadoff homerun by Josh Adams just over the wall in right center field. Tyler Thompson flied out, but back-to-back singles by Daniel Pigott and Vickash Ramjit had the Gators threatening once again. They couldn’t capitalize however as Dent fouled out, and Smith hit a groundball between third and short stop that hit Pigott on the foot as he was advancing to end the inning with the 2-0 Florida lead.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Vickerson and Shepherd hit back-to-back singles followed by a base hit by Cody Freeman that scored Vickerson, and forced the pitching change to Toledo. Then with a 0-2 count, Brett Brownlee scored Shepherd with a single into center field to tie the game at 2-2. Jonathan Ogden grounded into a double play to end the frame.

In the top of the eighth the Gators would regain the lead. After a leadoff double into center field by Zunino, Tucker fouled out, but Zunino advanced to third on a wild pitch to Adams who would strike out later in the at bat. Thompson sent a ball soaring into center field just over the glove of Bulldog center fielder CT Bradford that plated Zunino and landed Thompson on third. Pigott would record the third out on a line drive to shallow field caught by the short stop Ogden.

As Mississippi State was down to their last three outs that would eliminate them from the tournament and send Florida to Omaha, SEC batting leader Jarrod Parks led off the final half inning with a single through the left side. O’Sullivan replaced LHP Nick Maronde with another lefty, Steven Rodriguez who didn’t have time to break a sweat as Vickerson hit the first pitch over the left field wall for the 4-3 walk-off victory.

Both teams will face off in the final game of the series Sunday at 1pm with the winner advancing to the College World Series and the loser heading home.

Dory LeBlanc is a contributing author at GatorsFirst.com and BourbonMeyer.com.  For more thoughts on the Florida  Gators (and more) follow Dory LeBlanc on Twitter (@Dory_LeBlanc).

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