STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Mississippi State baseball team opened a three-game Southeastern Conference series against the Florida Gators with an 8-6 loss Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs (25-21, 9-13 SEC) trailed the Gators (27-18, 9-13 SEC) 7-0 before cutting the deficit to two runs at 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning, but MSU’s comeback attempt fell short.
MSU held an 11-9 hits advantage over Florida and had four multihit efforts. Senior Luke Hancock, junior Logan Tanner and sophomore Lane Forsythe all recorded two hits and one RBI. Senior Brad Cumbest also finished with two hits.
Junior BT Riopelle led the Gators with four hits, six RBIs and two runs, while sophomore Wyatt Langford finished with three hits, three runs and one RBI.
Senior pitcher Brandon Smith (3-4) started for the Bulldogs and was charged with the loss after allowing seven runs on six hits with three strikeouts and five walks in 4 2⁄3 innings. Sophomore Mikey Tepper then allowed one run on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 2 1⁄3 innings. Sophomore Jackson Fristoe pitched the final two innings and struck out four of the eight batters he faced.
Sophomore Brandon Sproat (6-4) started for the Gators and earned the win after allowing two runs on six hits in six innings of work. He fanned five batters and walked one. Redshirt freshman Ryan Slater earned his third save after pitching the final 1 2⁄3 innings.
Florida took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Langford hit a leadoff single to right field and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Sophomore Sterlin Thompson and junior Jud Fabian then drew walks before Riopelle followed with a two-RBI single up the middle.
In the top of the second inning, Langford hit a two-out home run to right-center field before Thompson drew a walk and Fabian singled. Riopelle followed with a three-run homer to right field to give the Gators a 6-0 lead.
After two scoreless innings, the Gators added another run to their lead in the top of the fifth inning. Riopelle led off with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a groundout. Junior Kendrick Calilao scored him with an RBI single to center field to give Florida a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs broke the shutout in the bottom half of the fifth. Cumbest and sophomore Kellum Clark singled to put runners on the corners. Clark moved up to second before Forsythe’s one-out single to right field plated Cumbest and moved Clark over to third. Graduate student RJ Yeager’s sacrifice fly made it a 7-2 ballgame.
In the top of the sixth inning, Langford hit a one-out single through the right side and Thompson drew a walk. A wild pitch pushed Langford to third before he scored on Riopelle’s RBI double down the right-field line to give Florida an 8-2 lead.
MSU began to chip away at its deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning. Freshman pinch-hitter Aaron Downs singled up the middle and Forsythe followed with a single of his own. Yeager then reached on a fielding error to load the bases. Downs scored on junior Kamren James’ RBI fielder’s choice and James stole second. A groundout scored Forsythe before James crossed home on Tanner’s RBI single up the middle to draw within three at 8-5.
Cumbest led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single and advanced to second on a groundout. Walks by Downs and Forsythe loaded the bases before Yeager’s RBI groundout made it 8-6, but that was as close as MSU got.
The Bulldogs and Gators will play again Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.