Florida defeats MSU 5-3

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Florida (34-13, 15-8 SEC) scored three times in the first inning and Gator pitching held Mississippi State to four hits Saturday afternoon as the 10th-ranked Gators registered a series-clinching 5-3 win over Mississippi State (27-18, 11-11 SEC) before a paid crowd of 7,159 at Dudy Noble Field.

"They are a good club," said MSU third baseman Steve Gendron. "We knew they were a good team when they came in here. They have proven to us that they are a good club."

The Gators used a pair of walks and three singles to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning off MSU starter Tanner Brock (6-4). Ryan Shealy's two-out RBI single opened the scoring and Pat Osborn followed with a two run hit to right field as eight Gators came to the plate in the inning.

Florida starter Alex Hart (11-1) backed up the offensive show with a solid pitching effort. The junior righty-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced and shut out the Bulldogs through the first four frames.

"I thought that Hart, the first (four) innings, was very effective," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "I can see why he has had such a good season for the Gators."

State first baseman Matthew Brinson expanded on the reason for Hart's effectiveness. "He had a cutter that cut about 6 to 8 inches. It ran away from righties and into lefties. He threw a couple good ones to me. His fastball had a little late jump on it."

State closed the gap with a pair of runs in the fifth. Steve Gendron opened the inning with a single, stole second and later scored on a throwing error by Hart. Jason Burkley walked and scored MSU's second run in the inning on a wild pitch. But Hart struck out Chad Henry with runners at second and third to end the inning and concluded his five-inning mound stint after walking the leadoff batter in the sixth.

"(Hart) got tired and we lacked discipline at the plate and struck out twice in situations where we could have walked on bad pitches," said Polk. "That is how you lose ballgames. I think our guys are geared up too much. They are trying so hard to generate an offense against a good pitching ballclub, sometimes they overswing a little bit."

Florida expanded its lead with two runs in the eighth. Matt Goss and Shealy opened the frame with singles to end Brock's stint on the mound, and four batters later Mario Garza laced a two-out single to right that plated Florida's final runs.

Polk thought about bringing in a new pitcher after the first hit in the 8th, but decided to stay with Brock. "Tanner had pitched so well. He is such a good defensive pitcher and we thought they were going to bunt. But, they didn't bunt. Then, all of a sudden, they have runners on first and second. Then, we had to make a decision."

Polk then brought in lefthander Steven Dowe. Dowe forced the runner at third when the bunt was hit back to him. Polk then replaced him with junior right-hander Jacob Blakeney.

Relief pitcher Jamie Goldfarb pitched the final four innings, allowing one hit and working out of a ninth-inning jam to earn his fourth save. In the ninth Gendron reached on a fielding error at first base and Jon Mungle followed with a double. But the Bulldogs could get but one run home, that coming on a Burkley sacrifice fly to right field.

"He threw strikes," said Gendron when talking about the effectiveness of Goldfarb. "The umpire was calling everything. He was calling everything, everywhere for both clubs."

The Gators can sweep the three-game series with a victory over the Bulldogs Sunday afternoon. Bulldog third baseman, Steve Gendron, had thoughts about that. "No one wants to get swept at home or on the road. We will come out (Sunday) and play just as hard as we did (Saturday). Hopefully, we will get more hits and more runs and end up winning the game."

Gametime is set for 1:30 p.m.

UF 300 000 020 - 5-8-3
MSU 000 020 001 - 3-4-1
WP - Alex Hart (11-1). LP - Tanner Brock (6-4). SV - Jamie Goldfarb (4). T - 2:46. ATT - 7159 (paid), 6324 (actual).

Other post-game comments by the MSU players and coach Polk:

When Steve Gendron was asked about MSU's lack of come from behind victories this season, he said, "I don't think we have had a come-from-behind win this year. I kind of felt good that we had a shot today. I don't have a clue why we can't come from behind. It is just something that we haven't been able to do."

Matthew Brinson expanded on it a little more than Steve. "I don't know why it is we haven't been able to come from behind except for one game. That was against Arkansas, the Sunday game when we came from behind and won 6-4. That is it, that is the only game that we have come from behind. That makes me upset. We are not giving up, but it seems like we are getting down on ourselves when we fall behind. We can't do that if we expect to win some ballgames."

Brinson also expressed, with some frustration, what the team needs to think and do the rest of the season. "Everyone of the teams that we have to play here, midweek, weekend, it doesn't matter, they are all good. We have got to step up if we are going to win some games. I am tired of this losing. I haven't lost this much in my life. We have lost 19 games in 43 games. That doesn't happen to this team."

But, even though he is a little frustrated, he wasn't ready to hit the panic button. "No, you don't hit the panic button. That is the worse thing you can do. A couple of guys, including myself, have got to get some extra hours in the (hitting) cage. We, as an offense, have to step up and get runners on and then get those key hits. We have got to be able to hit these guys."

Gendron agreed with him about not hitting the panic button. "I don't think there is any pressure building. We just have to go out and continue playing our game. Sometimes, you just don't hit. That is the bottom line."

Brinson also had his thoughts about what needs to be done to get in a regional. "The bottom line is, we have to win games. We can't rely on us getting to a regional by just our name. A couple of guys are thinking that. That is crap. You have to perform to get in. The (selection committee) doesn't look and say 'hey, that is Mississippi State, they are in.' They look and say 'that is a good conference and they have a pretty good record, so they are in.' If we have a crappy record and we continue to lose ballgames, we aren't getting in."

While the players were a little frustrated about the lack of a lot of wins this season, Coach Polk understands where the frustration is coming from and understands how to handle it. "Kids press a lot. The last two years at Georgia, they did not press as much as this ballclub because at Georgia you weren't supposed to win. They were much more relaxed than this ballclub because of the tradition (at MSU), Mississippi State is supposed to win games. That sometimes makes it a little tougher for them to relax. We don't yell and scream at them. We don't kick or shove them. We just pat them on the back and give them encouragement. That is, basically, the way I have always managed kids. You have good days and bad days. They are 19, 20, 21 years of age. They aren't professional athletes."

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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