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Florida uses big fifth inning to beat MSU, avoid sweep

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- Just about everything that could go wrong in the fifth inning for the Mississippi State University baseball program did Sunday.  

 

MSU, which was trying for its first sweep of the University of Florida since 1989, gave up a season-high eight runs in the fifth frame in an 8-3 loss at Dudy Noble Field. 

 

In the fifth, MSU (26-9, 5-7 Southeastern Conference) lost starting pitcher Jacob Lindgren to an apparent ankle injury after he slipped on a bunt to the right side of the mound. Three other MSU pitchers combined to allow the eight runs and help Florida (15-18, 5-7) salvage a victory in the weekend series.  

 

"I feel like we had one bad inning this week and certainly that was the fifth," Cohen said. "We don't field two bunts when they're giving us two outs. That's the key to the ballgame." 

 

The eight runs were the most scored by Florida in an inning this season, surpassing the six-run explosion against Duke University in a 16-5 home victory on Feb. 17. The first seven of Florida's 12 batters in an inning that saw many of the 7,660 in attendance find the exits. 

 

"One game and one win makes a huge difference in this league," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We're staying close enough to .500 mark to be in striking distance later in the season. It was a really big game." 

 

The Gators had been held to a .207 batting average in the first two days of the series with only four extra-base hits. O'Sullivan said his coaching staff opted to bunt every time the Gators got a runner at first base because they were tired of grounding into double plays. Florida grounded into three double plays Saturday in a 2-0 loss. The strategy paid off as a error by third baseman Sam Frost in the fifth gave Florida the final lead.  

 

"I feel like we're on the verge of doing some special things, but for us to do that we have to defend," Cohen said. "We didn't defend in that one inning and we have to get back to our identity, but we are not going to get down based off just one inning, even though it was a bad one." 

 

Florida broke the game open on the batter immediately after Lindgren (2-1) left the game. Pinch hitter Connor Mitchell laced a bases-loaded triple down the right-field line off freshman right-hander Myles Gentry to give the Gators their second lead of the weekend. Mitchell had been hitting .211 in 38 at-bats. 

 

"He was going to the bathroom (and) we had to yell in there, 'Get him out there,' " O'Sullivan said. "It was a big at-bat (because) they went to the side-arm guy." 

 

Lindgren, who was making his first start since suffering tightness and pain in his left elbow last week, went four innings and was led off the field by the MSU training staff after slipping. He has been hampered by injuries to his right knee, left elbow, and his right ankle. Cohen said after the game he believed Lindgren "would be just fine" after he rolled the ankle moving to his right.  

 

"He threw the ball really well and just twisted his ankle, so he had to come out of the game," Cohen said. "He knew it right away (that he had to come out) by signaling to us, but I knew we were making a pitching change and had to talk about it with Butch to see who we would go with in that situation." 

 

Sophomore right-hander Johnny Magliozzi (3-1), the Gators' closer, pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up one run on two hits after the first. He was making his first start of the season after not being used the first two days. Florida was without Friday night starting pitcher Jay Carmichael, who didn't travel with the team for unknown reasons.  

 

The last time MSU swept Florida in a weekend series Cohen was a junior outfielder playing for MSU coach Ron Polk. Cohen walked away from Dudy Noble Field on Sunday afternoon more than impressed with a youthful Florida bullpen that allowed just two runs in 10 1/3 innings.  

 

"I don't know if I've seen a team in all of college baseball throw it over 95 mph more than this Florida club we saw this weekend," Cohen said. "When you look at the stats of their pitchers and then look at their stuff, those just don't match up. I bet in the second half it wouldn't shock me to see them get it going." 

 

MSU will make its second and last trip to Trustmark Park in Pearl on Tuesday for a 6:30 p.m. Governors Cup game against the University of Mississippi. Sophomore right-hander Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 4.15 ERA) is scheduled to make his sixth mid-week start of the season. 

 

 

 

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