It was a typical Friday night SEC baseball game with two stud pitchers, the kind of game you know is going to come down to the little things.
Unfortunately for Florida, the Gators weren’t the ones doing the little things.
Instead, Mississippi State manufactured runs, played stellar defense and got just enough outs to beat UF 6-5 as 4,213 watched at McKethan Stadium.
“There were just mistakes we made that cost us a run here and there,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan.
Mississippi State (17-1) scored in five consecutive innings and withstood a late Florida rally. UF had only two hits going into the eighth inning before scoring a run in the eighth and three in the ninth.
The fifth-ranked Gators (14-6) had the tying run on third in the ninth, but Brady McConnell struck out ending his 15-game hitting streak and the game.
The Gators also had a chance for more in the eighth when Nelson Maldonado singled up the middle to score one run and Kendrick Calilao drilled a ball deep into the right field corner. But Mississippi State’s Elijah MacNamee made a running catch at the warning track to end the inning.
“We fell short, but it was a good battle,” said Maldonado. “Their guy threw really well. He made his pitches and he made them count. He did his job.”
Their guy was Ethan Small (2-0) who pitched six innings and struck out 11, his fourth double-digit strikeout total already this season.
“For whatever reason,” said O’Sullivan, “we weren’t aggressive early.”
Tommy Mace (4-1) pitched what O’Sullivan said was his best performance of the year, giving up three runs in 6 ⅓ innings.
“It was fun,” Mace said. “A different outcome would have been nice.”
Wil Dalton gave Florida a 1-0 lead when he took a 3-1 pitch and smashed it into the trees beyond the left field stands with two out in the fourth inning.
The lead didn’t last long. Mississippi State’s Justin Foscue hit his team-leading sixth homer of the year, a line drive to left to lead off the fifth.
“He sat on a cutter and hit it well,” Mace said. “I didn’t think it was that bad a pitch, so kudos to him.”
The sixth-ranked Bulldogs were able to take the lead in the sixth without a hard hit ball.
The inning started with a soft grounder by Jake Mangum that went under second baseman Jacob Young’s glove and stopped rolling in shallow right-center. By the time the Gators could get to the ball, Mangum had a double.
Tanner Lee hit a shot that deflected of Mace for an infield hit. After striking out MacNamee, Mace threw one in the dirt that got past catcher Brady Smith and Mangum sprinted home.
“If I field my position, they don’t score there,” Mace said.
Mississippi State added another run in the seventh on a single by Mangum that deflected off the glove of center fielder Jud Fabian and another in the eighth on three singles.
In the ninth, MacNamee doubled home two more runs off reliever Ben Specht.
Austin Langworthy and Blake Reese had RBI singles in the ninth. Hunter McMullen made it a one-run game with a sacrifice fly, but Florida could not get the tying run home.
The teams play again today at 2 p.m.
Who: No. 6 Mississippi State (17-1, 1-0 SEC) vs. No. 5 Florida (14-6, 0-1)
When: 2 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM