MSU Clinch Series Against Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Jeffrey Rea matched a career-high with five hits and Edward Easley drove in four runs Sunday afternoon as Mississippi State (12-4, 2-1 SEC) out-scored Florida (11-12, 1-2 SEC) 14-13 at McKethan Stadium/Perry Field. The win clinched MSU's first series at Florida since 1990.

The Bulldogs piled up 20 hits, their 14th double-digit hits total in 16 games and their second-highest hits total of the campaign. Half of those hits came in the first three innings with State claimed a 10-7 edge. Rea opened the game with his first triple of the season and scored the first of the game's 27 runs on a single by Easley. Mitch Moreland followed with a three-run blast off UF starter Billy Bullock to give MSU a 4-0 lead.

Florida parlayed four two-out hits into a five-run scoring burst in the bottom of the opening inning that gave the Gators their only lead of the game at 5-4. Catcher Cody near opened a three-RBI outing with a two-run single in the inning. After singles by Mark Goforth and Rea, State reclaimed the lead at 7-5 in the second on Easley's sixth home run of the season, a three-run blast. UF answered promptly with another two-out rally that featured a walk and three straight singles that tied the score at 7-7. The Gators replaced starter Bullock with Patrick Keating in the third inning, and State greeted the new UF pitcher with three consecutive hits, the third a two-run single by Andy Rice that put the Bulldogs on top 9-7. Jeffrey Rea's fielder's choice groundout scored Rice and staked State starter Josh Johnson to a 10-7 advantage.

Florida plated two more two-out runs in the fourth and closed to within a run at 10-9, but the Bulldogs countered with two runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh. Five of the first six Bulldog batters reached base in the fifth, with Rea and Brandon Turner delivering RBI hits. Relief pitcher Kyle Mullaney replaced Keating in the inning and worked out of a bases-loaded jam. Mullaney was unable to get around a three-hit Bulldog surge in the seventh, capped by Brian LaNinfa's two-run single.

Chad Crosswhite (2-1) provided four strong innings of middle relief, allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits over four innings. Crosswhite held UF scoreless in his first inning of work, the fifth, then stayed away from big innings, allowing single tallies in each of the next four innings. Austin Pride cracked a solo home run in the sixth and pinch-hitter Barber opened the ninth with a roundtripper that closed the Bulldog lead to 14-13 and ended Crosswhite's stay in the game. Junior righty Mitch Moreland, in only his fourth relief appearance on the year, retired the three batters he faced in the frame, two on strikeouts, to nail down the series-clinching win and the first save of his MSU career.

Keating (1-1), the second of four Gator pitchers, pitched 2-1/3 inning and took the loss, allowing five runs on nine hits.

Rea went 5-for-6 with a triple and four singles while Easley, LaNinfa and Mark Goforth had three hits each to pace the Bulldogs at the plate. All nine starters in the Bulldog batting order had hits, and five had multi-hit games. Easley (.516), the SEC's hitting leader, finished the weekend with a 6-for-10 (.600) effort that included two home runs, seven RBI and five walks. Rea also hit .600, going 9-for-15 with seven runs scored.

Brian Leclerc collected four two-out singles and drove in three runs while Austin Pride had three of Florida's 14 hits and drove in four runs. Pride drilled a solo home run in the sixth.

Johnson, the Bulldog starter, was charged with the first nine Gator runs on 10 hits with two walks and six strikeouts in four innings.

The Sunday win clinched the SEC season-opening weekend series for the Bulldogs, who now host SEC East foes South Carolina and Kentucky the next two weekends.

The Bulldogs begin a 10-game homestand Wednesday at Dudy Noble Field. State hosts Samford in a 6:30 p.m. that was moved from its originally-scheduled Tuesday date to accommodate fans attending Tuesday night's MasterCard NIT basketball game at Humphrey Coliseum.

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