GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Mississippi State held its biggest lead against Florida in over five years, but couldn’t hold on Saturday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, falling by a score of 4-2 after a grand slam by the Gators’ Jessica Damico in the bottom of the sixth. The Maroon and White dropped to 23-14 overall and 2-9 inside the rugged Southeastern Conference, while No. 3 UF improved to 37-3 overall and 12-2 in conference play.
“Last night was two timely hits, and today was one timely hit for the Gators,” Head Coach Vann Stuedeman. “Florida was able to pull it out.”
The Bulldogs held a 2-0 lead heading to the bottom of the sixth, their biggest lead against the Orange and Blue since a similar 2-0 lead in Starkville on April 5, 2008. State right-hander starter Alison Owen started the bottom of the stanza with a hit by pitch, and followed it up with two-consecutive walks. Up next at the plate was Florida’s nine-hole hitter, Damico, who on a 1-1 count sailed a sky-high home run just over the outstretched glove of MSU left fielder Jessica Offutt at the wall for the game-winning hit.
Before the sixth inning, Owen was masterful for the Bulldogs inside the circle, shutting out the No. 6 scoring offense in the country and giving up just three hits. The righty, who fell to 12-6 on the year, ended up fanning seven UF batters total.
“Give credit to Alison Owen for throwing another great game,” Stuedeman explained. “She looked great out there. It’s going to happen for her, and she just has to keep pumping, because the well is going to fill up soon.”
State plated its first run of the game when Offutt singled to the hot corner to lead off the third inning. After stealing second, the Madison, Ala., speedster scored on a two-out double down the left-field line by junior Logan Foulks. The Bulldogs doubled their lead in the fourth thanks to a defensive miscue by UF on a sacrifice bunt by senior Shelby Fisher. With redshirt sophomore Briana Bell sprinting to third on the bunt, the Florida first baseman mishandled a throw from third, causing the ball to roll into right field, allowing Bell to score.
Overall at the dish, MSU finished with six hits on the day, one shy of the Bulldogs’ total in the three previous games against UF under Stuedeman the last two seasons. Offutt (2-for-3, run, stolen base) and junior catcher Sam Lenahan (2-for-4) both had multiple-hit games, while Foulks (1-for-3, RBI) and Bell (1-for-3, run) also tallied hits.
“Jessica looked very poised and under control out there and was on base twice for us,” Stuedeman said. “It is huge any time you can turn the lineup over like that.”
Starkville’s Team heads back to the diamond in Gainesville for the series finale Sunday at 11 a.m. CT. Free live audio streaming of the series will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive). For live in-game updates of MSU's Sunday contest in Gainesville, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team's Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU's official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.