GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The No. 7 Mississippi State baseball team managed to hold off the Gators’ late-inning rally, as the Dawgs took the Southeastern Conference series opener from No. 4 Florida, 6-5, Friday evening at McKethan Stadium.
State improves to 17-1 (1-0 SEC), while Florida falls to 14-6 (0-1 SEC).
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning when Florida’s Wil Dalton hit a solo home run to make it 1-0.
The Dawgs scored a run in the top of the fifth and sixth innings to take a 2-1 lead. Sophomore Justin Foscue led the fifth inning off with a home run to left field to tie things up at 1-1. In the sixth inning, senior Jake Mangum hit a double up the middle to begin the inning. After a strikeout, sophomore Tanner Allen singled to put runners on the corners. Mangum then scored on a wild pitch.
The Dawgs scored again in the seventh inning after junior Dustin Skelton drew a walk and came around to score on an RBI single by Mangum to extend the lead to 3-1.
State added another run in the eighth on an RBI single by sophomore Josh Hatcher before the Gators responded with a run of their own in the bottom half to make it 4-2. Freshman Cory Acton singled up the middle and came around to score after a pair of ground outs and a single from senior Nelson Maldonado.
The Gators rallied in the bottom of the ninth to give the Dawgs a scare. A leadoff walk by Dalton and hit batter began the inning. Junior Austin Langworthy singled to bring home Dalton. pinch hitter Blake Reese came in and hit an RBI single to make it a two-run game. Junior Kirby McMullen’s sacrifice fly cut the deficit to one and allowed Reese to reach third base, but a Gordon strikeout secured the MSU win.
MSU compiled 10 hits in the win. MacNamee, Mangum, Allen and Foscue all collected two hits in the contest.
Redshirt-junior starting pitcher Ethan Small (2-0) was dominant in the contest. He struck out 11 batters in six innings of work, and allowed one earned run on two hits and three walks.
Senior Jared Liebelt was the first pitcher to throw in relief, as he threw one scoreless inning of relief with one strikeout. Junior Colby White pitched the eighth inning and allowed one run on two hits. Gordon surrendered three runs, all earned, on two hits a walk in the ninth. His lone strikeout was the game-sealing out for the Dawgs.
Florida sophomore Tommy Mace (4-1) is charged with the loss after tossing 6 1⁄3 innings and allowing three runs, all earned, on three hits. He also struck out five batters and walked three.
The Diamond Dawgs and Gators will take the diamond again at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday at McKethan Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.