Mississippi State takes opener over No. 4 Florida baseball, 7-5

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State (21-9/5-5 SEC) rode a four-run first inning and a pair of homers by senior Jonathan Ogden to a 7-5 series-opening victory over No. 4 Florida (24-7/7-3 SEC) in front of 7,140 fans at Dudy Noble Field on Friday night. The Gators pulled within two runs in the sixth but were held scoreless for the final three innings by the duo of freshman Taylor Stark (2-0) and junior Caleb Reed, who registered four strikeouts over the last two frames to pick up his fifth save. MSU handed sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (5-1) his first defeat by totaling nine hits and six runs over the first 2.1 innings.

The Gators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against junior Devin Jones on a pair of two-out hits, a double by sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-5) and a single by sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5). Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) stroked a one-out single down the left-field line and advanced to second on a throwing error by senior left fielder Trey Johnson. Zunino roped his seventh double of the year with two down to score Adams and Johnson followed with a base-knock up the middle.

Mississippi State erupted for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the frame off Randall to seize a 4-2 lead. Freshman C.T. Bradford (3-for-5) led off with a single into left field and came home on a double into left center by senior Cody Freeman (2-for-5, two RBI), marking the first time in 30.1 innings that Randall had surrendered an earned run dating back to March 12 against Rhode Island. The right-hander set down the next two Bulldogs before Johnson tied the game with a single into center field. Ogden (2-for-3, three RBI) then moved the hosts in front with his team-leading fifth homer, a two-run jack over the wall in left center.

Freeman connected on a two-run homer with two down in the second to left center put the Bulldogs ahead by a 5-2 score. It was his first big fly of the season.

UF countered with two runs on four hits in the third to close the gap to 5-4. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-5) began the stanza with a single into center and scored on a one-out double into right center by Johnson, his seventh two-bagger. A sharp single by sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) to left field put runners on the corners and junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) came through with a two-out RBI single up the middle to bring the Gators within a run. Jones prevented further trouble by striking out sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.).

Ogden blasted his second homer of the night with one out in the home part of the inning to give the Bulldogs a 6-4 lead and prompt a pitching change. Over 2.1 innings, Randall gave up nine hits and six runs and had a pair of strikeouts.

Freshman Daryl Norris replaced Jones (3.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 K) at the start of the fourth and issued a one-out walk to Adams. Tucker collected his second hit of the night for a pair of runners aboard but the reliever responded by striking out Zunino and having Johnson ground out to first base.

Back-to-back one-out walks in the fifth by freshman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) and Pigott caused another call to the MSU bullpen. Sophomore Chad Girodo took over for Norris (1.1 IP, 1 H, 3 BB) had junior pinch hitter Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.) ground out, moving both runners into scoring position, and fanned Washington to preserve the Bulldogs’ two-run advantage.

MSU took advantage of a two-out, bases-loaded walk from junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) to build a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the frame. Redshirt senior Jarrod Parks led off with a single and went to second on a one-out base-hit by Johnson. Maronde was charged with a balk to move both runners over and then plunked Ogden to load the bases. The southpaw issued a free pass to senior Jaron Shepherd that resulted in a three-run margin, as Parks came across and was replaced by junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.). In his 2.1-inning stint, Maronde had a season-high six strikeouts and gave up two hits and a run. Larson whiffed senior Wes Thigpen to close the frame.

The Gators opened the sixth with consecutive singles by Adams and Tucker before Stark was summoned to replace Girodo (0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R). The reliever struck out Zunino and induced a ground ball from Johnson that forced Tucker at second base. However, a throwing error by Ogden trying to turn a double play enabled Adams to score to narrow the gap to 7-5. Stark caught Maddox looking on strikes to end the frame.

Bradford sliced a leadoff single up the middle before Larson had Freeman pop up and struck out Parks. Sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) took over on the hill for Larson (1.0 IP, 1 H, 2 K) and fanned Collins.

Sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) was plunked by Stark to start the eighth and Reed was inserted into the contest. After the right-hander struck out Adams and Tucker, Zunino smacked his second double of the night for a couple of Gators in scoring position. Reed worked out of the jam by having Johnson ground out, bringing UF’s total left on base to a dozen.

Reed retired the Gators in order in the ninth inning, including strikeouts of Maddox and Powers, before having Pigott pop up to conclude the contest. Each team finished with 12 hits, while UF had multiple-hit outings from Adams, Johnson, Tucker and Zunino.

Johnson (4-1, 2.92) will take the mound Saturday at 1 p.m. ET against Mississippi State right-hander Chris Stratton (4-2, 3.04). The game will be carried live on CSS, which can be seen on Channels 199 and 259 on the Cox Communications’ cable system in Gainesville and Ocala.

Game Notes

· Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is now 3-1 against Mississippi State.

· The Gators dropped to 5-3 away from Gainesville, including 4-1 in an opponents’ park.

· The Bulldogs are now 6-2 versus ranked opponents this season.

· Hudson Randall entered the game having allowed six runs (three earned) in 49.2 innings.

· Cody Dent made his first start of the season at shortstop and was 0-for-2.

· UF lost for the first time all year when not committing any errors (11-1).