By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
Avoiding elimination for the second-straight day, No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball (39-20) remains alive in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament after pulling off a 5-1 victory over the No. 5 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs (37-22) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.
Florida advanced to the semifinal round of the event, which is now single elimination for all remaining participants, and will take on No. 9 seed Kentucky in the late game on Saturday. UK is 3-1 vs. UF in 2014 and sent the Gators into the losers bracket of the SEC Tournament with a 4-2 win on Wednesday.
Unable to field a chopper hit by Florida freshman designated hitter Peter Alonso (1/3, 2 RBI, R) with the bases loaded, Mississippi State shortstop Seth Heck was charged with an error as UF jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage in the second inning.
The Gators never pieced together a big inning to bury the Bulldogs, stranding 10 runners on base during the contest, but they were able to tack on insurance runs throughout the night.
Alonso chipped in an RBI single in the fourth inning and crossed the plate in the sixth off an RBI single by junior third baseman Josh Tobias (1/3, RBI). Florida then went up 5-0 in the seventh as sophomore SS Richie Martin (0/4, R, BB) found his way home on an RBI ground out by junior catcher Taylor Gushue (2/5, RBI, R).
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Danny Young (4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 K) turned in a solid start for the Gators. Junior right-hander Justin Shafer (4.2 IP, 2 H, ER, 3 K) took over in the fifth and went the rest of the way, allowing only one run in the eighth inning.
Both UF hurlers benefited from a tremendous defensive performance from Florida’s fielders. Freshman left fielder Buddy Reed (1/2, BB) dove for an outstanding full-extension catch to save a run in the third inning, and junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/5) made an impressive throw from the shortstop position to redshirt junior first baseman Zack Powers (1/5) to complete an extremely difficult 4-3 putout that ended the seventh inning.
The Gators and Wildcats will battle for a spot in the SEC Tournament championship game in the second of Saturday’s back-to-back semifinal showdowns. First pitch will commence at approximately 4:30 p.m. with the game scheduled to air live on ESPNNEWS. Florida is looking to sweep the league titles and win the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2011.