Diamond Dogs Upset #4 Gators 7-5 In Series Opener

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Jonathan Ogden belted a pair of homers in a 2-for-3 night to lead the Bulldog offensive charge.
Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State improved to 6-2 versus ranked opponents this season with a stunning 7-5 victory over fourth-ranked Florida in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The Bulldogs have now won all four conference home games this season - all against ranked opponents. With the victory, MSU improved to 21-9 overall and 5-5 in league play, while Florida fell to 24-7 and 7-3. The Maroon and White are now back in sole possession of second place in the Western Division standings.

The tone was established early much to the delight of a season-best crowd of 7,123. The Bulldogs scored four times in the home half of the first inning and did not trail the remainder of the way. The turning of events was quite stunning since Florida ace Hudson Randall had entered the game with a 5-0 record, 0.54 ERA, and two complete games.

"We watched a lot of video on Hudson Randall," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We knew he liked to throw a lot of strikes early in the count and had great command of all three of his pitches. We came out knowing what to look for from him and capitalized."

Florida opened the scoring with two runs in the top half of the first inning. Josh Adams started things with a one-out single. After a second out, Mike Zunino followed with an RBI-double and Brian Johnson laced an RBI-single.

The Maroon and White answered with their four-spot in the home half of the first inning. C.T. Bradford opened the inning with a leadoff single. Cody Freeman followed with an RBI-double. After a pair of outs, Trey Johnson hit a game-tying RBI-single. A two-run home run by Jonathan Ogden placed the Bulldogs on top, 4-2.

"We came out expecting to hit the ball," Ogden said. "We knew their guy was good but we didn't think of him as unhittable. We expected to see strikes and put good swings on the ball. Luckily, we found a couple of holes with those swings."

A solo home run by Cody Freeman - his first of the season - extended the MSU advantage to 5-2 in the home half of the second inning.

The Gators came back with a pair of scores off MSU starter Devin Jones in the third inning. Preston Tucker had a leadoff single. After a popup, Johnson followed with an RBI-double. Austin Maddox added a hit, prior to Daniel Pigott lining a two-out RBI-single.

That frame would end the day's work for Jones. The MSU hurler allowed eight hits and four runs (all earned), with four strikeouts and one walk in three innings of work. The MSU quartet of Daryl Norris, Chad Girodo, Taylor Stark and Caleb Reed combined to allow four hits and one run (unearned) the rest of the way, with eight strikeouts and four walks.

By going two innings, Stark (2-0) received credit for the win. Reed faced seven batters, while working the final two innings to log his fifth save of the season. For Reed, it was his second save against a ranked opponent this week, as he also closed out Tuesday's 5-4 victory over No. 14 Southern Mississippi.

"Caleb did a tremendous job," Cohen said. "We didn't worry about him coming back on short rest once he got out there and we saw what he was throwing. He loves throwing in front of these crowds. He had great command of his fastball and got big time outs tonight."

In the third inning, Ogden hit his second home run in as many at-bats and team-best sixth on the season. That longball chased Randall (5-1), who allowed nine hits and six runs (all earned), with two strikeouts and no walks.

A bases-loaded walk to Jaron Shepherd closed the MSU scoring in the fifth inning. Florida got its final run on an MSU throwing error in the sixth inning.

Each team finished with 12 hits.

The Bulldogs received three hits from Bradford and multiple hits from Freeman, Jarrod Parks, Johnson and Ogden. The Gators received three hits from Tucker and multiple hits from Adams, Zunino and Johnson.

The series resumes with a noon first pitch Saturday afternoon. MSU is scheduled to start sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton (4-2, 3.04 ERA), while UF is scheduled to start sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (4-1, 2.92). Comcast Sports Southeast will have the regional broadcast with Richard Cross and Joe Beckwith on the call.

Sunday's series finale is also set for a noon start.

 



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