The night opened poorly as the Bulldogs quickly loaded the bases with three singles to start the game. Left fielder Reid Humphreys (2-4, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI) brought in two with a double after Faedo struck the cleanup batter in the helmet to maintain the bases chalked. There was no escaping for the sophomore, as the Gators spotted the #10 ranked team in the country four runs after three outs.
Junior Austin Sexton (4.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 K, 2 BB) was devastating early, retiring the first eight Florida batters in order. His fastball was in the mid-90’s, but his off speed stuff is what really gave Florida problems. He was able to produce groundball after groundball, frustrating the lineup throughout.
Faedo (5 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, 5 K, BB) returned in the 2nd a more composed pitcher, mowing down the Bulldogs in a manner that restored the faith in the stands. The optimism was short lived, as right fielder Cody Brown crushed a grand slam into the visitor’s bullpen in the third. That made the lead 9-0 and effectively killed off the Gators, who seemed to have learned their lesson from the previous night’s comeback victory. Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan tipped his cap to the Bulldogs, who were relentless at the plate.
“Credit Mississippi State’s hitters, they did a nice job of putting the ball in play.”
The Gators fought hard in the middle innings to get themselves back into the game. Center fielder Buddy Reed (1-4, 3 RBI, BB, K) produced his first home run of the campaign, a three-run shot with third baseman Jonathan India (3-4, R, RBI) and shortstop Dalton Guthrie (1-4, R, BB, K) aboard.
Florida continued to get on base and threatened to make a game of it, only to have momentum-crushing double plays in each of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, with the latter proving to be the most costly. The inning started brightly, with India and Guthrie on base again. Another good at-bat from Reed loaded the bases with no outs. Designated hitter JJ Schwarz (1-5), was the culprit on this occasion, with a first baseman Pete Alonso (0-4, BB, K) strikeout ending the charge before it started.
Sophomore Ryan Rigby (W 4-1, 1.33) was scintillating in relief of Sexton, allowing far less drama than his predecessor. The Gators would muster only four hits in the final five innings off the right-hander, whose sidearm action the Gators failed to master. O’Sullivan was proud of the warrior spirit of his team. Each team added a late run, with few fans left in attendance to see it.
“I was proud of our team and the way they battled, we put a three spot up in the third. We were one or two hits away from getting back in the game. We hung in there.”
Each game of the series, the Gators have produced 12 hits (6 in a row, if you believe it). The difference between them was timing. In game one, the Gators got timely hits and took advantage of their opportunities. In game two, Florida was unable to convert, with double plays ruining chance after chance.
If they are to win the series, they will need a strong effort from AJ Puk, who is due for a big performance, but was held to just one inning last week and pulled after back spasms. O’Sullivan said if he has hesitation with Puk due to the injury he will go with Dane Dunning.
All things considered, going 5-1 against then #1 Texas A&M and #10 Mississippi State would be a respectable haul for any team. The Gators now trail South Carolina by a game in the East, if they require additional motivation.
Game three starts at 4pm Sunday and will be televised nationally on SEC Network.