MSU Baseball Opens SEC Play with Win over No. 4 Florida

Source: Mississippi State University
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Redshirt-junior starting pitcher Ethan Small was dominant and senior outfielder Elijah MacNamee made two huge plays late in the game as the No. 7 Mississippi State baseball program took the series opener from No. 4 Florida, 6-5, on Friday (March 15) at McKethan Stadium.

A key sequence in the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth innings eventually led to the win, as MacNamee chased down a fly ball in the right-field corner for the final out of the eighth inning to save a Florida (14-6, 0-1 SEC) run from scoring. He then delivered a two-RBI double to make it a 6-2 game in favor of Mississippi State (17-1, 1-0 SEC) entering the bottom of the ninth.

It got tense in the bottom of the ninth, as the first four Gator hitters reached base against graduate student Cole Gordon to produce two runs. Gordon then got a ground out, before a sacrifice fly plated Florida's fifth run of the game. With a runner on third and two outs, Gordon finished off the game with a strikeout to move MSU's winning streak to 13 games.

Small allowed just one run on two hits in six innings of work. The left-hander walked three and struck out 11 for this fourth double-digit strikeout effort of the season. Senior Jared Liebelt continued to have a solid 2019, tossing one scoreless inning of relief with one strikeout.

At the plate, the top six in the State order produced nine hits and scored all six runs. Five of the six reached base multiple times, with MacNamee, senior Jake Mangum and sophomore Tanner Allen and Justin Foscue all collecting two hits.

Head Coach Chris Lemonis
On Ethan Smalls performance on the mound
"He competed. He competed all night long against a really good lineup. A lineup that has put up some runs lately. Then, he had to go out in the sixth and face some of their better guys. He really wanted the ball and that is what you need on Friday night; the most competitive kid on our staff to go out there and pitch the way he did."

On the offense getting going in the middle innings
"That is the grittiness of us with two strikes. We just tried to shorten up and put the ball in play. [Tommy] Mace was really good early and we have to make some adjustments and take some pitches. It was just about putting balls in play hard and we were able to get some hits out of it."

Mississippi State
Winning Streak Moves On - The 13-game winning streak is tied for the fifth longest streak in program history, equaling streaks by the 1970, '76, '79, '81, '99 and 2015 teams.
Ethan Small – Posted his fourth double-digit strikeout effort of the season with 11 strikeouts in six innings. Allowed one run on two hits to earn his second win of the year.
Elijah MacNamee – Posted a pair of hits and drove in two ninth-inning RBIs.
Justin Foscue – Hit his sixth home run of the season in the fifth inning.
Jake Mangum – Notched two hits, drove in one RBI and scored a run.
Top of the Order – The top six in the Bulldog batting order reached base a combined 11 times and each scored one run.

Florida
Wil Dalton – Hit a solo home run to open the scoring and scored two runs in the game.
Tommy Mace – Threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on three hits. Struck out five.

Scoring Recap
Bottom Fourth
A solo home run from Wil Dalton to left field with two outs in the inning gave the Gators the first run of the game.
Florida 1, Mississippi State 0

Top Fifth
Justin Foscue answered with a leadoff home run to left field to knot the score. It was the sixth home run of the season for the sophomore and his third home run to lead off an inning in 2019.
Mississippi State 1, Florida 1

Top Sixth
Jake Mangum started things with a double through the infield, moved to third on a Tanner Allen infield single and scored on a wild pitch with two outs to give MSU the lead.
Mississippi State 2, Florida 1

Top Seventh
Dustin Skelton reached via walk and Josh Hatcher was hit by a pitch to start the inning, before Rowdey Jordan sacrificed the runners to second and third. After a walk to Gunner Halter, Mangum hit a slicing line drive to center field that Jud Fabian couldn't corral and one run scored. A strikeout and line out ended the frame with the bases loaded.
Mississippi State 3, Florida 1

Top Eighth
The first two batters of the inning reached via walk to Elijah MacNamee and single by Foscue. After a Skelton sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, Hatcher delivered an RBI single through a drawn-in infield to make it a three-run game.
Mississippi State 4, Florida 1

Bottom Eighth
The Gators manufactured a run in the eighth inning, as Cory Acton singled to start the frame and eventually scored on a two-out single by Nelson Maldonado. The Gators nearly added to the run total, but a running catch by MacNamee in the right-field corner ended the frame.
Mississippi State 4, Florida 2

Top Ninth
Back-to-back one-out singles by Jordan Westburg and Allen brought MacNamee to the plate. The hero of the eighth inning came through with a two-RBI double to left-center field to move the MSU lead to 6-2.
Mississippi State 6, Florida 2

Bottom Ninth
Cole Gordon entered in the ninth inning and the first four hitters reached base against the State closer. After a walk and a hit-by-pitch, Austin Langworthy punched a single through the right side of the infield to plate a run. Blake Reese pinch hit and singled to score the second run of the inning and a Brady McMullen's sacrifice fly with one out made it a one-run game, 6-5. Gordon got the final out of the inning via strikeout to move State's winning streak to 13-straight games.
Mississippi State 6, Florida 5

Up Next
Mississippi State and Florida will meet at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 16 at McKethan Stadium. The game will air live on the SEC Network and via the Mississippi State Baseball Radio Network.