BASEBALL: UF edges MSU 2-1; moves back into first

Junior Alan Horne tossed the first complete game of the season as Florida edged Mississippi State 2-1 Saturday afternoon in SEC action at The Mac. The Marianna native allowed only one earned run on nine hits, while striking out nine Bulldogs. Florida's win, coupled with LSU's 9-3 victory over Tennessee moved the Gators one-half game ahead of the Vols in the Southeastern Conference standings.

Catcher Brian Jeroloman said that Horne is a bulldog on the mound. I don't think there is any question that Mississippi State Coach Ron Polk would take issue with that remark, especially since Horne played against him at both Ole Miss and Florida.

However, since Jeroloman drove in both of Florida's runs with a two-out single to center field in the bottom of the sixth, he has carte blanc.

"This guy right here (Alan Horne) pitched his butt off" Jeroloman said. "He did a phenomenal job. He's (Alan Horne) a bulldog on the mound and I love catching him. Alan Horne is one of those guys that when you look in his eyes, there is no fear. He'd throw against (Barry Bonds) in his prime".

"When he first got here, coming back off the surgery, you've got to get back in the rhythm and flow" he continued. "Everything has worked out well, the coaches have all worked with Alan, and he's worked his butt off day in and day out. Now, he's one of those guys that I don't have to call timeout and go talk to him really, because I know that he knows what he's doing wrong. He's a great pitcher and I love catching him"

Horne said afterward that he is doing well, but he's a little worn out right now. No kidding. Horne threw 130 pitches today, equaling his pitch count total in last weekends' awesome 12 strikeout performance versus Arkansas. The Razorbacks took that game 3-2 in 10 innings.

"We got a win out of it this time though" the hard throwing right hander said. "It was a big day for us, no doubt about it. We've just got to keep rolling.

"They're a very scrappy team" he said of MSU. "They put a lot of balls into play and today I had sporadic stuff. I had really good stuff, and then I'd lose it for a little bit. It was tough, and the heat doesn't make it any easier. It was a tough day, but I was able to go out there and keep throwing and (the team) made some outstanding defensive plays. It was good day all in all".

Horne was the first Florida pitcher to toss a complete game since Tommy Boss accomplished the feat on June 6th of last year. It was Horne's first complete game since February 28th, 2003, when he pitched for Ole Miss.

As good as Horne was today, so was the effort of Mississippi State starter Todd Doolittle and reliever Brett Cleveland. Doolittle held the Gators scoreless through five. In fact, the Gators didn't secure their first hit until Matt LaPorta's double in the fourth. The Gators left a pair of runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings.

Doolittle walked Adam Davis and hit LaPorta to start the sixth. Right fielder Brian LeClerc moved them over with a beautifully placed sacrifice bunt. Two batters later later, Jeroloman stroked a single to center scoring Davis and LaPorta who were hustling.

"The past couple of weeks our problem was that one would be on, one would be off, the offense or the pitching". Jeroloman said. "Today, everything just kind of worked.together. The defense was great. The pitching was great. The short game is the most important part of the game. All of the little things add up to big things, and when you've got a kid like this pitching, two runs can possibly win a game".

Cleveland came on in relief of Doolittle and pitched 2.1 shutout innings against the Gators. The MSU duo combined to walk seven Florida batters on the day, but two of those were intentional.

The Bulldogs notched their only run in the top of the seventh, courtesy of a home run by pinch hitter Mitch Moreland, who delivered on a 1-2 count.

Mississippi State made a run in the eighth when third baseman Thomas Berkery led off the inning with a double to left center. Right fielder Brad Corley slapped Horne's first pitch into center field, but the ball was quickly relayed in preventing Berkery from advancing beyond third. Designated hitter Brian LaNinfa then flew out to short center with the ball again quickly relayed to the cut off man thwarting any attempt by Berkery to advance home.

Center fielder Joseph Hunter hit a hard ground ball to freshman third baseman Matt Gaski, who quickly relayed the ball to Davis at second. Davis got his usual lighting quick turn and hurled the ball to LaPorta at first getting Hunter by a fraction of a second. Head Coach Ron Polk, who was coaching third simply turned and walked back to the digout without arguing the call. However, the Bulldogs first base coach did briefly argue the call, but as usual lost.

Florida Coach Pat McMahon has been using Gaski in the later innings to shore up Brandon McArthur's defensive woes. McMahon's timing was perfect.

Florida celebrated Senior Day honoring Tommy Boss, Jeff Corsaletti, Connor Falkenbach, and Mike Pete.

Boss (6-3, 4.87 ERA, .322 OBA) and the Gators will go for the Sunday sweep tomorrow at 1pm. Mississippi State will pitch right hander Jon Crosby (5-2, 3.19 ERA, .297 OBA).

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