Bulldogs blasted by Florida

Published 12:45 am Sunday, April 10, 2011

The huge crowd was there. The hype was there.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs? They didn’t seem to show up.

Mike Zunino’s grand slam highlighted an eight-run explosion in the second inning that propelled fourth-ranked Florida to an 18-0 rout of Mississippi State on Saturday.

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It was a disappointing day all around for the Bulldogs. Their six-game home winning streak ended in front of a crowd of 10,332 people who swarmed the Starkville campus as part of Super Bulldog Weekend. Many likely headed over to the spring football game later Saturday afternoon after the baseball Bulldogs gave them little to cheer about.

The 18 runs were the most scored by Florida in a Southeastern Conference game since a 24-2 victory over Auburn on April 11, 2009. It was the worst loss for MSU since a 22-4 defeat against Tennessee in 1998, and the most lopsided margin in the 91-game history of the MSU-Florida series.

“I’m very disappointed in the way we played,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “We didn’t handle the short turnaround very well. We have to come out tomorrow prepared to play and win.”

Things spiraled out of control early for Mississippi State (21-10, 5-6 Southeastern Conference). Florida batted around in the second inning as MSU starter Chris Stratton walked three batters and hit another to force in three runs.

Stratton left after walking Preston Tucker with the bases loaded. Zunino then greeted reliever Chad Girodo by blasting his first pitch over the left field fence to give the Gators an 8-0 lead.

Zunino, who also led off the second inning with an infield single, finished the game 3-for-4 with five RBIs and four runs scored. Daniel Pigott added two hits and three RBIs for Florida (25-7, 8-3), which stretched the lead to 12-0 before adding the final insult with six runs in the top of the seventh inning.

Mississippi State totaled just eight hits — three by Cody Freeman — compared to 18 for Florida. Brian Johnson (5-1) pitched six shutout innings for the Gators, and relievers Daniel Gibson and Matt Campbell completed the shutout.

Mississippi State needed six pitchers to get through the game after Stratton (4-3) lasted just 1 2/3 innings. Stratton allowed seven runs on only three hits, the walks and hit batter doing him in.