No.6 Florida storms back to walk-off No.21 Mississippi State

No.6 Florida combined for five runs in the 8th and 9th inning to secure their 7th comeback win of the season on Friday night, defeating No.21 Mississippi State 7-6 in walk off fashion.

Sophomore infielder Cade Kurland delivered the final blow in the 9th inning with the bases loaded and two outs. After being called for a strike before stepping into the box, the Florida native ripped a single through the middle of the infield on an 0-2 count, scoring Ty Evans from third base.

“Just a matter of simplifying, taking a step back, relaxing, and not trying to do too much, especially when you get down two strikes,” Kurland said on his walk off single.

The Gators (15-10, 5-2 SEC) were just 1-10 on the season when trailing after seven innings before a heroic comeback in game one against the Bulldogs.

Brandon Neely’s first start of 2024 

Brandon Neely has served as Florida’s closer since his sophomore season in 2023 but Kevin O’Sullivan decided to switch things up as the Gators’ season has not quite gone as expected.

Neely tossed 3.1 innings in his first start, allowing five earned runs (two inherited) on five hits, two walks, and two hit by pitches. Neely’s stuff was particularly sharp early on, having thrown 40 strikes on his first 59 pitches while holding the Bulldogs to just one run through the first three innings.

Neely ran out of gas in his 4th inning as his pitch count rose, which wasn’t exactly a surprise as he’s maxed out at 61 pitches in 2024. His command started to slip, plunking two batters on 1-2 counts while walking another in the 4th frame.

MSU also tallied back-to-back hits through the right side that weren’t hit particularly hard, which sparked a four run fourth inning for the Dawgs.

“I thought the first couple of innings Brandon looked really, really sharp. I mean really sharp,” Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said postgame. “We talked about it before the game. He said he felt like he could probably go 80 pitches or so and he went maybe 81 or so. There was a lot of misfortune in there, too. Mississippi State did a really good job of battling with two strikes. They got a couple hits in the four-hole that weren’t necessarily hit very hard but they battled and they didn’t swing and miss very much.”

Admirable bullpen effort 

Florida’s bullpen combined for 5.2 innings of relief, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out nine batters.

Cade Fisher, who has served as Florida’s Friday night starter all season, delivered a critical 3.1 innings of one run relief, keeping the Gators’ offense in the game through the middle innings.

“Really, really proud of the way Cade Fisher pitched tonight,” O’Sullivan said. “Without that performance, we probably wouldn’t have won the ballgame. He was just really, really good.”

Blake Purnell took over in the 8th, retiring three of the four batters he faced in his scoreless frame. This was another big spot as Florida trailed by four runs with the top of Mississippi State’s lineup due up.

After Florida cut their deficit in half, true freshman RHP Luke McNeillie struck out the side on 12 pitches, turning it back to the Gators’ offense who had clearly found some momentum. McNeillie, who had allowed 16 earned runs through the first 8.1 innings of his career, has now posted 6.2 scoreless innings across his last four outings.

“Had a tough decision to make whether to bring Luke down two, but it just felt like if we could somehow keep it a two-run game then maybe we’d have a chance. Obviously, he came in and did a great job,” O’Sullivan said.

Bats came alive when it mattered most

Florida struggled at the plate early on, totaling just two three hits through seven innings on Friday night, two of which came off the bat of Tanner Garrison, who is hitting .216 on the season.

The Gators combined for five hits and five runs in the final two frames.

“The at bats the last two innings were really, really good,” O’Sullivan said on the approach in the last two innings. “Hayden Yost, freshman, two-strike hit the other way and then Armando comes off the bench and draws a walk after a two-strike count. We didn’t get the bunt down and then the left-hander they brought in threw some really good sliders to Colby. We then just kind of strung some things together. Ty’s hit obviously was huge. Cags’ ball was a fortunate enough one for us. It had a weird spin to it and I thought that Shelly’s at bat was really good. He didn’t chase out of the zone. Then with Cade coming up, they called the first pitch a strike so he’s already in the hole. 0-1 because he’s not in the box. Then he just put a really good swing on it, another 0-2 count swing. That’s a really good two-strike at bat there. Overall, it was a heck of a game.”

The Gators are 24-12 against the Bulldogs under Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan (10-6 at home). Florida has won six-straight games in the series.


Florida and Mississippi State meet in game two on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network+.











Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.