Florida Takes Final Game Against MSU

STARKVILLE - A five-run fifth inning proved decisive Sunday afternoon as No. 19 Florida (28-11, 8-7 SEC) defeated Mississippi State 8-3 to win the deciding game in the three-game series.

With the win the Gators pulled within a game of SEC Eastern Division leader Tennessee, who was swept this weekend at Ole Miss. The Bulldogs dropped their fourth league series in five weekends and end the weekend in a three-way tie for eighth place in the SEC.

"We had a really good weekend," Florida coach Pat McMahon said. "We did a good job of expanding the lead in the last two games of the series. We had some timely hits and our relief pitching was really strong today."

In the Florida fifth inning, the Gators struck with one out. MSU starter Jeff Lacher issued back-to-back walks to Jeff Corsaletti and Justin Tordi. Adam Davis followed with an RBI single to center, scoring Corsaletti. Ryan Kennedy followed with a two-run single to left field. C.J. Smith then tripled into right center, ending Lacher's day. Grant was greeted by an RBI single by Ben Harrison, closing the inning.

MSU tried to battle back from the 5-1 deficit with a pair of scores in its half of the fifth inning. Thomas Berkery singled and took second base on a balk. After Brian LaNinfa drew a walk, Florida replaced Bryan Ball with Lee Roberson on the mound.

Tyler Jones touched Roberson for an RBI single down the right field line. Jeffrey Rea lined a sacrifice fly to left field to close the MSU scoring.

Conner Falkenbach then relieved Roberson. Falkenbach and teammate Darren O'Day combined to pitch 4 2/3 innings of four-hit shutout relief as the Gators pulled away.

"We didn't do a good job at the plate," MSU freshman lead-off man Jeffrey Rea said. "We had some chances late in the game and let them get away. This was a tough weekend. However, this team has done a good job on offense lately. We've just got to get back to work and try to win a pair of games against Memphis."

Florida scored once in the sixth inning and added two more scores in the eighth inning to salt away the victory.

Each team finished with 10 hits. Davis had two singles and three RBIs for the Gators. Smith and Jonathan Tucker each had two hits. Kennedy drove in a pair of runs for Florida. Steve Gendron, Jeff Butts and Tyler Jones each had multiple hits for the Bulldogs. Rea had a pair of RBIs for the Bulldogs. Brad Corley had a single, extending his team-leading hitting streak to a career-best 11 games.

Lacher (3-5) took the loss. The Hattiesburg senior worked 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and five runs (all earned). Lacher struck out three and walked three. Jamie Gant, Saunders Ramsey and Brad Corley pitched in relief for MSU.

"We had our chances to take a good lead early," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "They scored five runs and we only had a one-run lead at the time. Things got away from us midway through the game. Florida has a nice club and they pitched well today."

Falkenbach (6-3) picked up the win. Falkenbach pitched four innings of four-hit baseball, allowing no runs with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.

The Bulldogs host Conference USA rival Memphis in a two-series this week. The Bulldogs and Tigers play at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Dudy Noble Field. MSU travels to Auburn next weekend to open the second half of the 2004 SEC season.

Florida (28-11) 000 051 020 ‹ 8-10-0
MSU (22-14) 001 020 000 ‹ 3-10-1
WP-Falkenbach (6-3). LP-Lacher (3-5). 2B-Butts (8). 3B-Tucker (2), Smith 2 (2); T. Jones (1). T-2:53. A-4,483.

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