Starkville, Miss. -- Third-ranked Florida defeated Mississippi State, 3-2, in the opener of the teams’ three-game Southeastern Conference series on Friday at the MSU Softball Field. The Gators overcame a 2-1 first-inning deficit with two runs in the third, and right-hander Lauren Haeger struck out 11 batters while yielding four hits and two walks in a complete-game effort. 

Kirsti Merritt gave Florida (31-3, 4-3 SEC) an early lead with a solo home run off the left-field scoreboard in the top of the first. Mississippi State (24-9, 4-6 SEC) answered with a two-run double in the home half to go in front 2-1.

The Gators then loaded the bases in the third on singles by Justine McLean and Kelsey Stewart and a walk to Haeger. McLean scored to tie the game when Kayli Kvistad reached on a fielder’s choice, and Bailey Castro put Florida back in front with an RBI double down the left-field line that plated Stewart.

The one-run lead was enough for Haeger, who no-hit the Bulldogs for the final four innings to remain perfect with 14 wins on the season.