Gators clinch series at Mississippi State

The Florida offense carried the team through the last two weeks. On Saturday, the Gators found a new way to win.

In front of 13,004 in attendance, the 10th largest crowd for an on-campus game in college baseball history, the Gators (30-10, 11-6 SEC) allowed just five hits on the mound and clinched the series with a 2-1 win over Mississippi State.

“It’s nice to reward our offense,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said on the postgame radio show. “Our offense has been really good for weeks. It should help our team, winning a game like this and showing we can play on the road plus win a game like this where we have to make big pitches. It was a very clean game and we played really good defense. This is one of the more difficult places to play in our league, and it’s a big weekend for Mississippi State. To hold on like we did with a one-run lead, I think it says a lot about our character. We’re moving in the right direction as far as playing on the road.”

Florida starting pitcher Dane Dunning was dominant. The sophomore went 5.1 innings, giving up four hits and one walks with only one run allowed while recording two strikeouts.

After Dunning gave up a bunt single with one out in the sixth inning, O’Sullivan went to junior Aaron Rhodes, who tossed one shutout inning. After that, there was no question who was coming to the mound. Bobby Poyner has turned into the team’s closer in recent weeks, and he picked up his third save of the season on Saturday with 2.2 shutout innings, allowing only one single.

O’Sullivan called last night the best start of the year for Logan Shore, and he felt the same way about Dane Dunning on Saturday.

“Dane had a great start and made some big pitches early,” O’Sullivan said. “We just felt like he had done his job after 5.1 (innings). This is the best start he’s had. He made some pitches when he needed to. We’ve been waiting for him to take that turn, and I think Dane’s approach today was just different than how it has been. If we can keep (Dunning and Shore) going in the direction they’re going, they’re two really good starters that I feel good about.”

The Florida offense had a down day, but they had important hits when they needed them. Pete Alonso has pressed since returning from a broken foot, but he had a three-hit day, including a two-out, RBI single in the fourth inning that started the scoring.

“It’s just a matter of him seeing the ball better. He’s probably pressing a little bit. Sometimes it happens where you miss some time like he did and try to get it all back in a couple games. You can’t do that. Really big game for him. I know he needed it. He can take a deep breath and relax. Obviously we need him. He’s a middle of the order type guy for us. It’s a big game for him.”

With the game tied at one in the seventh inning, Mississippi State brought in closer Trevor Fitts with runners on first and third with one out. Florida nine-hole hitter Ryan Larson executed a safety squeeze to score Alonso from third base, and Bulldogs first baseman Wes Rea slipped on the play, allowing Larson to reach for a single.

Those runs were all the Gators would need.

Florida will go for the sweep tomorrow with freshman right-hander Alex Faedo getting the start. O’Sullivan said the team has nine pitchers still available, and even Poyner is capable of throwing an inning late on Sunday if the team needs it. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

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