No. 5 Florida edges past Miss. St.
Zunino powers Gators to victory with eighth-inning home run
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Mike Zunino belted a solo homer in the eighth inning to lift No. 5 Florida (38-14/16-11 SEC) to a 2-1 series-clinching victory against Mississippi State (31-20/13-14 SEC) on Sunday afternoon.
Zunino’s team-leading 13th homer came with one down off of Jacob Lindgren (1-2) to move the Gators in front and Austin Maddox (3-2) completed a perfect outing by setting down the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the ninth. In his first action since April 29, Maddox retired all seven MSU hitters he faced and totaled two strikeouts to pick up the win. The teams combined for six hits on the afternoon.
Mississippi State had runners on the corners in the first inning but could not break the ice. Adam Frazier opened the game with a walk and moved to second on a one-out walk by Trey Porter. Karsten Whitson had a fielder’s choice by Hunter Renfroe force-out of Porter at second base and then the righty caught Mitch Slauter looking on strikes to end the frame.
The Gators threatened in the bottom of the frame with two runners in scoring position but were kept off the board by Evan Mitchell. Nolan Fontana drew a leadoff walk and collected his team-leading 10th stolen base in 10 attempts with one down. Zunino earned a free pass and Mitchell struck out Brian Johnson for the second out.
However, a wild pitch on the play permitted Fontana to take third base. Zunino stole second for a pair of runners in scoring position and Mitchell responded with an inning-ending strikeout of Daniel Pigott.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the second but were held at bay. Brent Brownlee was hit by a pitch to start the inning, Matthew Britton flew out to left field and a fielder’s choice by Wes Rea forced Brownlee at second base for the second out. Sam Frost and Frazier drew consecutive walks to load the bases and Whitson worked out of the jam by inducing a ground out from Taylor Stark.
Renfroe connected on a one-out solo shot in the third inning to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. His fourth homer of the season was his seventh hit of the series. Slauter followed with a single into right field and went to second on a wild pitch. A grounder by Brownlee pushed Slauter to third and Whitson stranded him there with a strikeout of Britton.
Florida answered with the tying run on an RBI grounder by Preston Tucker. Vickash Ramjit led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Frazier. Fontana moved his teammate to third with a sacrifice bunt and Tucker’s ground ball to second base brought home Ramjit. Zunino walked with two down and advanced to third on a base-hit into right field by Johnson. A walk to Pigott ended the afternoon for Mitchell (2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 2 K) and MSU’s Ross Mitchell forced Casey Turgeon to ground out to preserve the deadlock.
MSU loaded the bases with one out in the fourth but could not take the lead. Whitson (3.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 4 K) issued a one-out walk to Frost and was replaced by Daniel Gibson. Frazier singled into right field, moving Frost to third, and advanced to second on a throwing error on the relay by Tucker. After an intentional walk to Stark loaded the bases, Gibson came through with an important strikeout of Porter and Greg Larson was summoned from the bullpen. The righty had Renfroe fly out to leave the bags full.
Brownlee reached on a one-out error in the fifth and went to second on a grounder by Britton. Bobby Poyner took over on the mound for Larson (1.0 IP) and walked pinch hitter Daryl Norris intentionally. Steven Rodriguez came in and struck out Frost.
Slauter earned a one-out walk in the seventh and a throwing error by Rodriguez on a pickoff throw enabled the runner to take third. Brownlee walked after an 11-pitch at bat for runners on the corners and Rodriguez (2.0 IP, 3 K, 2 BB) whiffed Britton for the second out. Maddox took over on the mound and struck out Norris to bring MSU’s runners left on base total to 13.
Shafer started the bottom of the inning with a walk, snapping a stretch of seven consecutive batters retired by Mitchell (3.1 IP, 1 K, 1 BB). Josh Tobias greeted Caleb Reed with his fourth sacrifice hit of the season to move Shafer to second base. After a strikeout of Ramjit, Reed (0.2 IP) was replaced by Lindgren, who struck out Fontana to keep the stalemate.
Maddox made a tremendous defensive play on a bunt by Frost to record the first out in the eighth and then had Frazier foul out and Stark strike out. Zunino bashed a 2-1 pitch from Lindgren into the left-field bleachers for what turned out to be his second game-winning hit in Florida’s last three victories.