Bulldogs Win the Opener Against the Gators

It wasn't a typical Friday night in the SEC. Instead of a short game dominated by starting pitching, the two starters only lasted a combined 5.1 innings. Most of the scoring came early as Mississippi State (21-9/5-5 SEC) defeated No. 4 Florida 7-5 to take the series opener in front of 7,123 at Dudy Noble Field.

Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall proved he was human. The sophomore came in Friday's game with a 5-0 record and a 0.54 ERA. In 49.2 innings coming into Friday, Randall (5-1) had only allowed three earned runs and zero home runs.

Against the Bulldogs, it didn't take long to realize that Randall's command wasn't sharp. In 2.1 innings, Randall allowed nine hits and six earned runs. He gave up three home runs to an aggressive Mississippi State lineup. Tennessee came into the game with the same approach last Friday night, and Randall used his pinpoint control to cruise to a 74-pitch complete game shutout. Against the Bulldogs, his command wasn't sharp and he was hit hard.

The Florida bats were alive early to keep the team in the game despite their ace not having his best stuff. The Gators actually led in the first inning after Mike Zunino lined an RBI double and Brian Johnson followed with an RBI single.

Florida (24-7/7-3 SEC) put two more on the board in the third inning with an RBI double by Brian Johnson and an RBI single from Daniel Pigott. The scoring in the third cut the Mississippi State advantage to 5-4, but that's as close as the Gators would get.

The Bulldogs came back with a solo home run from Jonathan Ogden in the third inning off Randall, and Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan went to his bullpen to get left-hander Nick Maronde. The junior went 2.1 innings, giving up two hits and one run while recording six strikeouts.

Greg Larson, Steven Rodriguez and Keenan Kish closed the game out. The Florida bullpen did their job to keep the team in the game, but the offense couldn't put enough runs on the board late in the game to make the comeback happen. The bullpen combined to throw 5.2 innings, allowing three hits, one run and recording nine strikeouts.

The only Florida run after the third inning came when the Gators had first and third with one out. Johnson grounded a ball to second base where the Bulldogs got the first out at second, but the throw from Ogden went into the Florida dugout to allow a run to score. The Mississippi State lead was cut to 7-5 where it would stay.

The Gators threatened in the eighth inning when a pitch hit Kamm Washington and Tucker doubled to left. With two outs, Mississippi State closer Caleb Reed got Johnson to ground out. Reed picked up his fifth save on the season.

Florida left 12 hitters on base on Friday.

Zack Powers struck out looking in the ninth inning that seemed questionable, and the umpire threw Florida reliever Steven Rodriguez out of the game.

The teams will continue the action on Saturday at 1 p.m. Florida will start sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson, and the Bulldogs will counter with sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton.

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