MSU Defeats Florida, 11-2

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's Alan Johnson made the most of his first Friday night start in Southeastern Conference play this season.<P> The MSU junior right-hander pitched seven innings of three hit baseball as the Bulldogs rolled over the Florida Gators 11-2 before a crowd of 4,641 Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The Bulldogs improved to 22-12 overall and 6-7 in SEC play. Florida fell to 26-11 overall and is also now 6-7 in league play. The MSU victory ruined a homecoming of sorts for Florida coach Pat McMahon, who was previously the head coach at MSU.

The win also kicked off MSU's 19th installment of Super Bulldog Weekend. The SEC rivals continue their part in the weekend series with a 3 p.m. start Saturday. The contest will be shown regionally by Fox Sports Net South.

Friday night, Johnson also received a ton of offensive support. The Bulldogs pounded out 19 hits - their best output in a conference game this season.

"We went down to Southern Miss and had two really good games two weeks ago," MSU outfielder Jeff Butts said. "Ever since then, we've really swung the bats with a lot of confidence. You can tell how much better we are playing offensively now then we were a couple of weeks ago."

Johnson also gave a shot in the arm to an MSU staff that has struggled of late in Friday night contests. Johnson actually carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. The Bulldogs shutout survived into the seventh inning. Butts did his part with a masterful catch against the left field wall. Offensively, MSU grabbed the lead for good with two runs in the first inning. Those scores came courtesy of Craig Tatum's sixth home run of the season. An inning later, the lead grew to 6-0 as the Bulldogs put together four hits for four more scores.

RBI singles by Brad Corley, Brad Jones and Thomas Berkery were the big hits in the inning. MSU also scored a run on a balk call. The Bulldogs then expanded the lead with two scores in the fifth inning. After Florida tallied twice in the seventh innings, the hosts roared back with a single score in the seventh inning and two more scores in the eighth inning.

"Offensively, we had a great night," said Tatum, one of eight MSU multiple hitters in the contest. "This is the type of effort that can sometimes set a tone for the entire weekend."

Corley, Tatum and Jones each finished with three hits for MSU. Pinch-hitter Casey Hamilton entered late and had a pair of hits, while Butts and leadoff man Jeffrey Rea also had two hits. Of MSU's 19 hits, seven were of the extra-base variety, including a pair of doubles by Butts.

"We swung the bats really well," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "That allowed Alan Johnson to just pump strikes through the zone. We've been needing a lift on Friday nights. He was able to give us that type of performance. At the same time, tomorrow is a new day. We have to come back out to the field ready to battle again."

Johnson (2-1) allowed three hits in seven innings of work. Both Florida runs were earned. Johnson struck out five and walked six while facing 31 batters. Brett Cleveland threw two innings of shutout relief for the Bulldogs.

Florida starter Tommy Boss (2-2) was chased during the big MSU second inning. Adam Sanabria, Matt Fuchs and Mike Pete worked in relief for the Gators. Pinch-hitter Ryan Kennedy had two hits for the Gators. Kennedy broke up the shutout with a two-run double in the seventh inning.

"It was a tough night," McMahon said. "We started in the hole and didn't do a good job of battling back. State has been doing a lot better job at the plate recently. They really had a great hitting night in this contest."

Florida is expected to start junior righthander Justin Hoyman (6-0, 2.75 ERA) Saturday, while MSU is expected to give junior righthander Todd Doolittle (2-0, 3.08 ERA) his first SEC start.


Fla 26-11 000 000 200 - 2 3 1
MSU 22-12 240 020 12x - 11 19 2

WP-A. Johnson (2-1). LP-Boss (2-2). 2B-Kennedy (1); Rea (11), Corley (5), Tatum (11), Butts 2 (7). 3B-B. Jones (2). HR-Tatum (6). T-2:46. A-4,641.

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