UNF Takes Series From Bulldogs With 11-6 Win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A five-run first inning deficit was too much for the Mississippi State baseball team to overcome Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs battled back before falling 11-6 to North Florida in the final game of a weekend series at UNF's Harmon Stadium.

The Sunday finale was a disappointing ending to what started as a promising weekend. The Bulldogs won Friday's series opener, 8-2. The Ospreys battled back to take a 17-9 victory Saturday before cruising to Sunday's win. At one stretch, UNF scored 18 straight runs off MSU pitching.

"We didn't pitch very well the last two days," MSU head coach Ron Polk said. "North Florida has a nice ball club. The two big innings they had started with a walk. The umpires were tight and we had to aim the ball a little bit. However, it was the same for both sides.

"North Florida has a nice ball club and we knew this would be a tough road trip. North Florida had 17 freshmen last year. Last year, they knocked off some fine teams. If you give them some 2-0 and 3-1 counts, they will hurt you."

North Florida (2-1) struck quickly Sunday afternoon. The Ospreys scored five first-inning runs off MSU starter Ricky Bowen, who was making his first career start. T.J. Thompson drew a leadoff walk. Chad Knight singled and Preston Hale also walked. Travis Martin hit a sacrifice fly. Michael P. Smith and Michael R. Smith followed with RBI singles. A two-run double by T.J. Gaudy capped the big inning.

After that, Bowen settled down was the Bulldogs tried to rally. M-State finally struck with three runs in the fourth inning. Tyler Moore singled and Ryan Collins drew a walk. Ryan Duffy - making his first start of the season at catcher - slapped a three-run home run to center field. That round-tripper halted a string of eight straight scoreless innings by UNF pitching.

An inning later, MSU (1-2) missed a golden opportunity to take the lead. Jason Nappi, Andy Rice and Tyler Moore started things with consecutive singles. The Bulldogs had the bases loaded with nobody out but could only produce one run with Nappi scoring on an infield throwing error.

UNF moved back out of danger in the bottom of the fifth inning with a three-run home run by Michael P. Smith. The Ospreys extended that lead to 11-4 with a single run in the sixth inning and two more scores in the seventh inning. MSU scored singles runs in the eighth and ninth innings but could get no closer.

The Bulldogs collected a season-best 13 hits but stranded 14 base runners. North Florida pounded out 18 hits, a day after collecting 15 hits in the 17-9 victory. Bowen (0-1) worked into the fifth inning with Greg Houston, Jesse Carver and Aaron Weatherford following in relief. UNF starter Jonathan Turner (1-0) pitched the first four innings and was credited with the win.

The Bulldogs open a 14-game homestand Tuesday afternoon. MSU and UAB are scheduled for a 4 p.m. start at Dudy Noble Field. MSU will then host Air Force for three-game weekend series. Each of those games will be broadcast locally by WFCA-FM and may heard through the Internet on M2M.

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