State Drops Sunday Battle With #4 Florida, 3-1

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Nick Routt allowed just one earned run and struck out five in five innings of work on the mound Sunday.
Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State failed to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities as the Bulldogs dropped a hard-fought 3-1 decision to fourth-ranked Florida in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Sunday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.

A crowd of 3,046 watched one of the closing events to this year's Super Bulldog Weekend. The overall weekend series drew a season-best crowd of 20,501 for three fantastic baseball days on the MSU campus. Florida won its third straight series from MSU, as the Bulldogs last took a series in 2006 in Starkville.

With the victory, Florida improved to 26-7 overall and 9-3 in league play. The Gators still trail Vanderbilt and South Carolina, both of whom swept this weekend, by one game in the Eastern Division standings. MSU fell to 21-11 and 5-7. The Bulldogs are tied with Ole Miss and Auburn for third place in the Western Division standings.

After winning Friday's series opener, 7-5, the Bulldogs' offense ran dry. MSU managed only one run over the final 21 innings of the series. Sunday's defeat gave the Maroon and White back-to-back home losses for the first time this season.

With the teams tied 1-1, Florida scored twice in the seventh inning. An infield error could have gotten the Bulldogs out of the inning. Instead, Preston Tucker followed with a two-run single. The Bulldogs had two more chances - stranding pair of runners in the eighth inning and leaving the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

"We did a lot of average things bad today," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We didn't have a good day. Our kids kept fighting and I am proud of that. We'll correct what we need to and keep fighting."

The offensive futility ruined a strong day's work by the MSU pitching staff.

In his longest start of the season, junior left-hander Nick Routt threw 88 pitches and lasted five innings. Still working with a pitch count, Routt allowed six hits and one run (earned), with five strikeouts and one walk. Luis Pollorena followed in relief. Pollorena was touched for the go-ahead hit but both runs were unearned because of the error.

Pollorena (3-1) worked 1.2 innings, allowing two hits and the two scores, with a walk and a strikeout. Caleb Reed finished the seventh, worked the eighth and got the first two outs in the ninth. C.T. Bradford retired the only batter he faced to work the Bulldogs out of a tight spot in the ninth inning.

In the home half of the ninth inning, Nick Vickerson began the inning with a leadoff single. After a strikeout, Adam Frazier hit a groundball back to the pitcher. A high throw by the UF pitcher allowed both runners to be safe. A Jaron Shepherd single loaded the bases with one out.

In relief, the Gators turned to first baseman Austin Maddox. Maddox got Wes Thigpen to fly to right field and Bradford to pop up to third base in foul territory to turn the Bulldogs away for one final time.

MSU scored first with a lone run in the second inning. Jonathan Ogden began things with a two-out single. Frazier followed with a hit and Shepherd walked to load the bases. Thigpen singled to right field, scoring Ogden. Despite a throw up the third base line, Frazier was called out on the tag as he also tried to score.

Florida answered with its first score in the fourth inning. Mike Zunino opened the inning with a one-out single. Brian Johnson and Maddox followed with back-to-back hits. Maddox's hit scored Zunino. Routt bounced back with a lineout and popout to snuff that UF threat.

The Bulldogs finished with eight hits, with no player gaining more than one. The Gators finished with nine hits. Maddox and Zack Powers each had multiple hits.

Steven Rodriguez (2-1) - the second of six UF pitchers - garnered the win. Rodriguez threw 1.2 innings, allowing no runs or hits, with three strikeouts. Starting pitcher Karsten Whitson was lifted with one out in the sixth inning.

The Bulldogs return to the road for a 6 p.m. start Wednesday night at UAB. That is the completion of a contest suspended earlier this year. The homestanding Blazers will resume play with a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning. Conference play resumes next weekend with MSU visiting No. 18 Arkansas in Fayetteville.

 



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