Closer Johnny Magliozzi became a winning starter as the Gators took a 8-3 Sunday decision and salvaged a split of their weekend at Mississippi State. Florida left Dudy Noble Field 15-18 and 5-7 SEC, while the Bulldogs are 26-9, 5-7 after their first winning weekend in league play this season. They took the first two contests 7-3 and 2-0.
“We wanted to get that’s sweep to get us back on track,” said SS Adam Frazier. “But we’ll take the positive, we got the series.”
For four Sunday innings Mississippi State was on track to score the sweep. The Bulldogs scored twice in the opening inning and were rolling through Gator batters. That was before Florida put together their biggest inning of the 2013 season so far, scoring all eight of their runs in the top of the fifth frame. And doing so off four Bulldog pitchers.
The contest more truly turned on what happened, and what didn’t, in the first inning. The Dogs did score the pair but didn’t completely cash-in their opening opportunities. In the process Magliozzi survived early scuffles and settled in. The righthander hadn’t come to Dudy Noble Field expecting to start anything, seeing how he was the staff door slammer with six saves and two wins out of his 16 stints. Sunday in fact was his first start.
Yet he looked every bit an ace once into a groove. “He changed speeds and started using a changeup pretty good, I guess that kind of got us off-balance,” said Frazier.
Magliozzi (3-1) put in 5.2 innings with three State runs on five hits, walking one and striking out three. Fireballers Ryan Harris and Daniel Gibson sealed the deal with 3.1 scoreless turns together.
State had its own pitching uncertainties Sunday morning, wanting to get a look at LHP Jacob Lindgren before committing him. The sophomore had missed last weekend’s work at Arkansas with a midweek elbow issue, then further delayed from his usual Friday slot. But he reported all well and was given the ball. For those first four innings he looked just fine.
“He threw the ball really well,” said Coach John Cohen.
Frazier greeted Magliozzi with a leadoff double in that first frame and made third on DH Alex Detz’ single. A fly ball by RF Hunter Renfroe scored Frazier, and 2B Brett Pirtle made it 2-0 with a single through the over-played right side. A plunking of 1B Wes Rea had two on with the one out. Magliozzi responded with a swinging strikeout of CF C.T. Bradford and rolled a grounder to strand both. Those were the first of eleven-straight Dogs to go down, making contact mostly but with nothing to show for it.
Lindgren wasn’t shabby either in the first-third, rolling easy grounders in the opening inning and stranding a runner on third in the second. He had his own strong stretch with seven consecutive outs, six on ground balls. A fifth-inning single by Vickash Ramjit singled to leftfield didn’t seem a big deal at first.
Then Josh Tobias followed with an up-the-middle hopper Frazier could only field. Having pounded into double-plays all weekend the Gators were absolutely bunting here and did. Lindgren had to hustle over for the grab, but stepped awkwardly on his stop-and-turn and had no play at first. Worse, he’d rolled his ankle and needed a trainer to help him off the field.
State had already sent some pitchers to the bullpen but none were warmed yet. The #8 batter coming up was supposed to be a righthanded hitter so RHP Myles Gentry got the call. Florida countered once Gentry was warming by pinching with a lefthander. “And they go to a guy hitting .211 so we feel we’re going to get a ground ball,” Cohen said. “We did get a ground ball, it just stayed inside the bag.”
For a triple and three RBI, as Connor Mitchell pulled his hopper down into the right corner. “And they’re kind of off to the races after that,” said Cohen. LHP Chad Girodo took over to walk the ninth batter and give up a RBI single to Richie Martin. Casey Turgeon dumped a bunt to the left side that was meant for a sacrifice, but after so many fine plays on the weekend Frost hesitated and threw both late and wide of first base for a free run. And, another change with RHP Ben Bracewell called on to handle a still-no-outs mess with runners on corners. A fly ball was good for the next Florida run.
A walk and out later Tobias turned on Bracewell for a hot hopper down the first base line for a double, two runs and 8-2 scoreboard.
State got one of them back in the bottom of the fifth, as 3B Sam Frost doubled and was scored by LF Jacob Robson’s single. Magliozzi had plenty margin to play with though and rolled a double-play for that frame’s finish, then bowed-out with two on in the sixth via a nicking of Pirtle and walk of Bradford. Harris struck out Slauter on an off-speeder.
Ross Mitchell, Trevor Fitts, and Bradford took care of the rest of State’s pitching needs with no scoring and two hits. Harris couldn’t get a save statistically but three-hit the Dogs in his stint with a couple of strikeouts. Robson, in the nine-hole, had two of the eight MSu hits while Tobias was 3-of-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
It was a disappointing end for a squad looking to sweep. On the whole though Mississippi State had to be satisfied with winning a weekend at last. “I feel we’re playing well. Take this one inning out and you don’t want to dwell on it too much, but playing against this club…” Cohen said.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a team this year in all college baseball that threw the baseball over 95 miles per hour more than Florida did. When you look at the stats and the stuff of their pitchers those two things just don’t match up. I bet in the second half it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them get going.”
Mississippi State makes its second trip of the season to Pearl’s Trustmark Park this Tuesday to take on Ole Miss in the annual Governors Cup game. Cohen said RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 4.15) will get the start in the AA park, after his successful start in beating South Alabama last week.