Bulldogs take series from No. 1 Florida

Published 8:57 am Monday, April 11, 2016

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mississippi State ended its Sunday jinx, and could soon reap an even bigger reward as a result.

Ryan Gridley homered, three pitchers combined to hold top-ranked Florida scoreless until the ninth inning, and the Bulldogs beat No. 1 Florida 2-1 Sunday in the finale of a three-game series in Gainesville.

The Bulldogs (23-9-1, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) won their fourth consecutive SEC series and handed Florida (29-5, 8-4) its first series loss at McKeithen Stadium this season. Mississippi State also won on Sunday for the first time since SEC play began.

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It was MSU’s first series win at Florida since 2007.

“Our kids gutted this out,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “The name of this game was situational pitching. We had some key hits when it mattered. So proud of our pitchers today. We had some situations where we could have gotten more but we didn’t. We pitched well and defended well. We did enough.”

Mississippi State came into the series ranked No. 5 in the Baseball America poll and No. 8 in the Collegiate Baseball poll. Taking two out of three from the No. 1 team in the country should send the Bulldogs even higher when the new polls are released today.

Mississippi State will host No. 3 Texas A&M next weekend in another key SEC series.

“I can’t be more proud. This is a marathon, though, and we aren’t even halfway through yet,” Cohen said.

The Bulldogs’ Achilles’ heel in the first month of the SEC season had been its Sunday pitching, but that was not a major issue this time.

Although Konnor Pilkington, Zac Houston (2-0) and Reid Humphreys combined to walk eight batters and gave up six hits, they sidestepped all of that trouble and took a shutout into the ninth inning.

Florida’s Peter Alonso broke up the shutout with a solo home run with two outs, and then Humphreys struck out Deacon Liput to finish off his third save of the season.

Florida left 11 runners on base, but Mississippi State also wasted some chances.

Gridley’s home run in the fifth inning gave MSU a 1-0 lead, and in the seventh Brent Rooker and pinch-hitter John Holland led off with back-to-back doubles.

Holland’s double hit off the top of the fence, and Rooker held up at third thinking it might be caught. Cohen argued the ball was a home run, but a replay review upheld the original call of a double.

Rooker scored on a single by Elih Marrero, and the Bulldogs had the bases loaded with no outs. Florida reliever Shaun Anderson struck out Nathaniel Lowe and Humphreys before getting Gavin Collins to pop out to escape the threat.

In the game, Mississippi State left nine runners on base and struck out 10 times.