MSU Defeats Florida 12-9

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Mississippi State erupted for nine runs in the seventh inning Friday night at McKethan Stadium/Perry Field and went on to defeat Florida 12-9 on opening night for Southeastern Conference baseball competition

The Bulldogs (11-3, 1-0 SEC) trailed 5-1 heading into the inning but sent 13 batters to the plate to face a trio of Gator pitchers. For the 12th time in 14 games the Bulldogs reached double figures in hits, pounding out 17 hits in the game, nine during the season-largest seventh-inning uprising.

Freshman Connor Powers, who turned in a career-best 4-for-5 plate performance, singled twice in the frame, as did pinch-hitter Joseph McCaskill. Andy Rice singled and scored one run and doubled in another while Brian LaNinfa capped a three-RBI evening with a two-run single in the seventh. The inning also included three of the Gators' five errors, though none of the miscues in the inning resulted in runs scoring.

"There were a lot of mistakes in the game tonight by both teams," said MSU skipper Ron Polk. "I thought we hit the ball hard and we managed to score enough runs to win the game."

Bulldog sophomore Aaron Weatherford (3-0) picked up the win, out-dueling Gator starter Bryan Augenstein. Both hurlers worked 6-1/3 innings, with Weatherford allowing eight runs (four earned) on nine hits with four walks, six strikeouts and one hit batsman.

Weatherford was touched for a pair of unearned runs in the first inning. After striking out Jon Townsend to open the game, he walked Avery Barnes and Matt LaPorta followed with a single to right. Both runners advanced on Edward Easley's errant pick-off throw to first base, and after Weatherford fanned a second batter, Austin Pride beat out an RBI infield single to third base, with LaPorta beating a relay tag at the plate for Florida's second run.

The Bulldogs, held scoreless the first three frames, got to Gator starter Bryan Augenstein for a run in the fourth when Brandon Turner singled and later scored on Brian LaNinfa's two-out double to right.

Florida matched that run in the bottom of the fourth. Brian Leclerc was struck by a pitch and scored when Cody Neer's two-strike double found the gap in rightfield. The Gators added two more runs on two hits and two walks an inning later to extend its lead to 5-1. The first run scored on the first of two wild pitches by Weatherford and Cole Figueroa singled in another.

But the Bulldogs got back into the game in a big way with the nine-run uprising. Four of the runs in the inning were charged to Augenstein, four more to Steven Porter (0-1) and another to Josh Edmondson. Clint Franklin pitched the final two innings for Florida, giving up two Bulldog runs in the eighth.

Florida answered State's nine-run burst with a three-run surge. The Gators chased Weatherford from the game with a single, a misplayed one-out infield grounder and a walk. With the bases loaded, one out in the inning and MSU holding a 10-5 lead, junior John Lalor entered the game. Brian Leclerc greeted Lalor with a two-run single and Cody Neer followed with a sacrifice fly that narrowed the lead to 10-8. Lalor then struck out Chris Petrie to end the inning and allowed just one run, a season-first home run by Jon Townsend, the remainder of the game. Lalor notched his first career save in the game.

State scored twice in the eighth to close out its 12-run offensive show.

Seven Bulldogs registered multiple-hit games while Brian LaNinfa drove in a game-high three runs. Mitch Moreland, who drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh, extended his career-best and SEC-leading hitting streak to all 14 games with an eighth inning single. Bulldog catcher Edward Easley saw his impressive season-opening hitting streak end at 13 games.

Matt LaPorta and Brian Leclerc each posted 3-for-4 outings to pace the Gators' 12-hit attack.

The two teams combined for eight SEC opening-night errors.

The second game of the three-game series is set for a 3 p.m. (CT) first pitch, with MSU junior lefty Justin Pigott (2-1, 4.03) facing Florida lefty Stephen Locke (2-2, 5.40).

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