BASEBALL: Gators even series up vs. MSU

GAINESVILLE, FLA-Miss State starter Justin Pigott surrendered a season and career high 15 hits and eight runs earning his second loss of the season as host Florida (11-11, 1-1) evened its SEC opening series with visiting Miss State (11-4, 1-1) with a 10-8 win at McKethan Stadium.

Cole Figueroa went 3-for-4, Brian Leclec went 3-for-4 and Jon Townsend went 2-for-5 to help Florida rattle off its third most hits of the season.

“They hit the ball really well, put the ball in play and put up a four spot in the fifth, this is an offensive ball park, the wind was blowing out,” said Miss State head coach Ron Polk.

Townsend’s two-out two RBI double down the left field line off Pigott gave the Gators a three run cushion that they would never relingush.

Down 10-6 in the ninth, Miss State made it interesting though, cutting the lead in half on Powers two run shot just over right fielder Brian Leclerc reach to lead off the ninth.

Steven Porter got Jeff Flagg to ground out to short and struck out Nick Hardy and gave up a two out walk before striking out Brandon Turner to end the game.

Miss State struck first on Mitch Moreland’s fielder choice scoring Jeffery Rea from third, who led off the game with a double off the left field wall, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.

Florida answered in the bottom of the inning with two runs to take a 2-1 lead.

With one out, Cole Figueroa lined a single to right, Matt LaPorta doubled down the left field line and Austin Pride was hit by a Pigott pitch to load the bases. Designated hitter Jared Kubin blooped a single over second to score Figueroa and LaPorta to give the Gators their first lead.

Florida added to its lead in the second as Clayton Pisani singled to right, moved to second on Townsend single, moved to third on a Pigott balk and scored on Fgueroa’s grounder to first giving the Gators a 3-1 lead.

A three spot in the top of the third put the Bulldogs back in the lead as Rea and Turner led off the third with a single and a double and Easley followed with his fifth home run of the season with a three run shot in the left field bleachers.

Four runs on five hits in the fifth helped Florida take the lead back at 7-4 as Pride singled to right and Leclerc one out double down the left field line moved Pride to third to lead off the inning.

Neer singled to left scoring Pride, moving Leclerc to third and Pigott singled to left scoring Leclerc. Townsend’s two out 2 RBI double down the left field line scored Neer and Pigott, while Townsend moved to third on an error by Turner at short.

“We’re seeing the ball and hitting the ball really well right now, we’re winning pitch by pitch counts as hitting is a significant component of winning,” said Florida head coach Pat McMahon.

Once again the Bulldogs answered back as Joseph McCaskill’s two out single to left set up Powers two run home run into the left field bleachers cutting the lead to 7-6 in the top of the sixth.

Florida added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth as LaPorta singled to lead off the inning and scored on Leclerc two out RBI bloop single over short. Neer followed with a single to left to put runners on first and second however Pigott retired Pigott with a fly ball to left.

Leclerc, who earlier in the season saw his average dip to 0.43 and has suddenly been tearing the ball lately improving his average rise over 200 now, with a 3-for-4 performance today.

“In the fall, Leclerc was swinging the bats as good as he’s ever have in his career, he struggled early on but worked with coaches Tim Parenton and Don Norris, he was also one of first guys to help the younger guys, he has a tremendous work ethic and has stabilized our batting order,” McMahon said.

Locke, was pulled after six innings and relieved by Porter, who retired the Bulldogs in order in the seventh and eighth.

“Porter throws strikes and has pitched a lot of big games for us, after what happened last night he was telling me to get him back out there, no one was more hurt last night then him,” McMahon said.

One night after seeing Easley’s thirteen game hitting streak come to a close, Moreland saw his fourteen game streak end with a 0-4 performance in game two.

Rea went 2-for-4, Easley 3-for-4, McCaskill went 2-for-4 and Powers went 2-for-4 with two homeruns to lead the Bulldogs offensively.

Through two games both teams have combined for 39 runs on 57 hits, setting up a potential another thriller in the finale.

“Yeah I expected this kind of game, two ball clubs who hit the ball really well and both can have big innings when everything comes together, should be another thriller tomorrow,” Polk said.

Josh Johnson (2-0, 3.38) will face off against Florida freshman Billy Bullock (2-3, 3.24) in the series finale at 1 p.m. EST Sunday at McKethan Stadium.