May 23, 2014 11:13:26 PM
HOOVER, Ala. -- For the first time in three years, Mississippi State will not make it to the weekend semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament.
Less than 24 hours after a heart-breaking 7-6, 12-inning defeat to Kentucky, MSU (37-22) had no spark in a 5-1 loss to No. 7 Florida Friday night. The Bulldogs finish 2-2 in Hoover and will learn its NCAA tournament fate on Monday at 11 a.m. on ESPNU for the tournament selection show.
"The one of the neat things is, at least in the beginning, we don't have to play any SEC opponents," MSU coach John Cohen said. "I think that's why our league has had so much success in the postseason."
The top-seeded Gators (39-20) lefty-righty combination of Danny Young and Justin Shafer held MSU to just six hits after the Bulldogs had bashed their way to 24 runs in their first three games in Hoover, Alabama.
"We had a lot of good at-bats today and a lot of hard line drives but they made some really good defensive plays and nothing fell for us," MSU senior second baseman Brett Pirtle said.
Pirtle had his consecutive games streak end at 39 consecutive contests of getting on base (63 games against SEC teams) with a 0 for 2 outing that did include driving in the only MSU run Friday.
Former Opening Day starter Brandon Woodruff (1-3) got the call for MSU and was lifted with one out in the fourth inning. Woodruff allowed five hits and three runs (two earned), with two walks. MSU pitching coach then turned the game into a bullpen day for little-used arms throughout the season after Ben Bracewell worked 2.2 innings. Vance Tatum, Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton worked an inning apiece before MSU left Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
"It is really important to get those guys opportunities because this is a different stage for them and we think they'll be really good pitchers," Cohen said. "As we all know, you can't do something till you've done it before.
The middle of Florida's order (Harrison Bader, Taylor Gushue and Braden Mattson) had six of the Gators 10 hits but it was the two errors by Seth Heck and Cody Walker that cost MSU early in its first elimination game.
Florida built a 2-0 lead in the second inning when two hits and a walk loaded the bases. An infield error allowed a pair of runs to score. The Gators ran the lead to 4-0 on an RBI-single by Peter Alonso in the fourth inning and an RBI-single by Josh Tobias in the sixth inning.
Shafer (1-0) got the win for Florida as the heavily used reliever allowed just two hits and struck out three in a 41-pitch outing that kept the Gators pitching available for a semifinal game against Kentucky Saturday.
"He threw strikes and he faced a lot of left-handed hitters in a season-long outing for him," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Tomorrow's game will be the usual for us. You are trying to get ready for NCAA Regionals. We feel fortunate to still be playing right now."
MSU will head back to Starkville tomorrow morning and have extra days to get ready before NCAA Regional play begins next weekend.
"Hopefully, we can rekindle some of that magic from last season (a run to the College World Series national championship finals)," Cohen said. "We have the third most league wins of any team in the league over the last four years, so our kids are winning some games against elite competition."
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