Florida Defeats MSU 5-4

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mark Kiger's two-out single in the ninth inning drove in the winning run Friday night lifting No. 10 Florida (33-13, 14-8) to a 5-4 win over Mississippi State (27-17, 11-10) in the opening game of a three-game SEC series at Dudy Noble Field.

"The key to the ballgame was when Paul (Maholm) had that one inning where they hit a couple of hard hit balls and a couple of ground balls got through. We had a four-run lead and we left 10 to 12 men on-base to their six."

The game-winning hit capped a comeback for the Gators, who fell behind 4-0 after three innings. MSU scored a run in the first on Jason Burkley's two-out single to left, and added three more on three hits in the third inning. Enrico Jones plated two with a single and Casey Long singled in another, chasing UF starter Jimmy Ramshaw from the game after 2-2/3 innings.

"It was a changeup away," Enrico said about his 2-RBI single. "We knew coming in that he was going to keep it low and away."

The Bulldogs left six base runners in the first three frames but had few scoring opportunities against Gator relief pitcher David Bartelt (5-1). The UF freshman checked MSU on two hits and struck out four in 5-2/3 innings of shutout relief work to earn the win.

"He was spotting his fastball and throwing a pretty good changeup, keeping it down and away," said Jones referring to Bartelt. "He didn't really keep us off-balance. He just knew how to pitch us."

Kevin Coleman came on to get the final two outs of the game with a runner at second base to pick up his fifth save.

Florida struck for three runs in the fourth to begin its comeback. Aaron Sobieraj doubled in one run and David Klebonis delivered the first of his two RBI singles on the night as eight Gators came to the plate to face MSU starter Paul Maholm (8-2). A pair of walks and a two-out hit by Klebonis tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth, and the score stayed deadlocked until the ninth.

Ben Harrison scored the game-winning run, reaching on a single, stealing second, taking third on a passed ball, and coming home on Kiger's single to left.

Maholm registered his fourth complete-game pitching performance of the campaign, but absorbed his first SEC loss after giving up five runs on 10 hits. Maholm struck out eight and walked three.

"We are not really used to it because he is our command guy," Jones said referring to Maholm's first SEC loss. "We haven't been down in a series after Friday night except for possibly once."

Chad Henry and Casey Long had two hits each to lead MSU at the plate, while Pat Osborn collected three singles to lead Florida.

The Bulldogs and the Gators continue their weekend series Saturday at 3 p.m. Bulldog senior right-hander Tanner Brock (6-3, 4.15) will be matched with Gator junior righty Alex Hart (10-1, 3.11).

"We will probably go with four left-handed hitters tomorrow against Hart," said Coach Ron Polk. "He is a kid that has pitched very well. He was a second-round draft pick out of high school. I haven't seen much of him because he has been injured so much."

UF 000 310 001 - 5-10-4
MSU 103 100 000 - 4-9-1
WP - David Bartelt (5-1). LP - Paul Maholm (8-2). SV - Kevin Coleman (5). T - 2:49. ATT - 6,562 (paid), 3887 (actual).

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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