Gators' Season Turned Around vs. MSU

Down 5-2 in the seventh inning to Mississippi State at the SEC Tournament, the Gators started their postseason run with one swing. The game changed when Brian Johnson's grand slam cleared the fence and gave Florida a lead it would hold onto in the first round. Since then, the Gators have won seven of eight games and outscored opponents 57-21.

The Bulldogs now present Florida's final hurdle on the way to Omaha for the College World Series.

"That was one of the turning points in our year," Florida right fielder Preston Tucker said. "We had to play from behind. They made some mistakes early, and they jumped on us. We learned a lot about ourselves in that one game."

It wasn't the prettiest game the Gators have played this year. Mississippi State second baseman Nick Vickerson hit what looked like a routine fly ball to deep center field that was misplayed by Bryson Smith for a two-run triple. Reliever Steven Rodriguez later threw a wild pitch that allowed C.T. Bradford to score for the Bulldogs in the seventh inning.

There were plenty of noticeable mistakes for the Gators, but they worked around them and fought back to get the win.

"We played from behind and had to come together to rally a little bit," Florida second baseman Josh Adams said. "That whole week set us up for the postseason. We've had some success early, but that set the team up to have some confidence coming into the postseason."

The game also saw Florida throw most of its bullpen. It would've been short rest for any of the starting pitchers to throw, so head coach Kevin O'Sullivan elected to save their arms. Tommy Toledo, Nick Maronde, Greg Larson, Steven Rodriguez and Austin Maddox allowed only seven hits and one walk in nine innings. They gave up five runs, but the Smith mistake in center field hurt that number. The Bulldogs didn't see Hudson Randall, Karsten Whitson or Brian Johnson, the three pitchers they are expected to see this weekend.

Evan Mitchell started that game for the Bulldogs, giving up two runs in five innings, and the freshman will also start Friday's opener.

DENT MAKING AN IMPACT: Dent has received all of the playing time during Florida's recent success, and that's not a coincidence. He has long been viewed as the best defensive option at third. The questions centered on his bat.

Since the start of the SEC Tournament, Dent is hitting .304 (7-23) with a .500 on-base percentage.

"I'm just trying to have good at-bats and do my job," Dent said. "Sully talked about my role being moving runners, situational hitting and just trying to get on-base. I'm going to do my job however I can."

Austin Maddox, Jeff Moyer and Zack Powers have all played third this season, but none of the three were able to stick defensively. Maddox looked the best at the position, but his glove was needed at first base before spraining his foot last week.

Dent was able to solidify the position defensively, and with the momentum the Florida offense has created in recent weeks, the Gators were willing to play Dent at third despite giving up some offense. The sophomore hasn't made an error in Florida's last game and has natural timing with second baseman Josh Adams, his roommate, when starting double plays.

"We've been waiting for someone to step up all season over there," Adams said. "He works his butt off and he definitely deserves it."

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