1/28: Florida vs. Mississippi St. post-game notes

The No. 13/14 Florida Gators earned another solid victory on Saturday by defeating the No. 16/18 Mississippi State Bulldogs 69-57 at home and winning their 17th consecutive game at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) again out of the starting lineup and Florida set for two games in three days next week, head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to talk about after the win.

YOUNG, BOYNTON ADJUSTING WELL TO TWEAKED ROLES

Though neither player has been asked to change their game, Young and junior guard Kenny Boynton have each had some adjusting to do since SEC play began.

Young, who has come off the bench the last four games mostly due to ankle tendinitis that has been bothering him, has had no problem whatsoever with the transition and said he will do it from now on if Donovan feels it is best. “Whatever Coach Donovan wants to do I’m 100 percent happy with it. If he wants me to come off the bench for the rest of the year, I would do it for the team,” he said after Saturday’s game.

Donovan discussed how the subject was broached to Young Friday evening and reiterated his player’s comments. “Pat’s fine. I went to Pat last night and I said to him, ‘You tell me where you’re at mentally. Do you want to start? Is that better for us and our team?’ He said, ‘No, I’m fine coming off the bench.’ I said, ‘We got a quick turnaround.’ He said, ‘I’m totally fine with coming off the bench [Saturday].’ He’s a great kid when it relates to that stuff. That’s not the end-all where he’s just not going to start,” he explained.

Young has played quite well since the switch, which came two games after Florida’s loss to Tennessee in their SEC opener. He’s shooting 71 percent from the field over the last five games and has played more than 24 minutes in each of the last three contests.

While Boynton is certainly not leaving the starting lineup, he has cooled off after starting the season on fire from three. He has shot 38.5 percent or worse from the field in four of six SEC games this year and went 1-for-6 on Saturday with a season-low two points. What he has been doing is dishing the ball and making the rest of his team better.

“I told Kenny after the game that I was really proud of him,” Donovan said. “Kenny maybe would be a guy who would’ve been upset a couple years ago. It was a real valuable lesson. Boynton and [Erving] Walker, the last four or five games, have gotten [39] assists and [10] turnovers. It’s a pretty impressive stat for those two guys.”

His teammate, freshman Bradley Beal, is equally impressed. “Kenny played great no matter how many points he had,” he said about his performance. “He did a great defensive job on [Dee] Bost. That was his main goal coming into the game, trying to defend him and trying to stop him the best he can. He really shut him down.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the team’s offensive output: “Offensively, although we made 11 threes in the game and Murphy had a lot to do with that, I thought we had some decent looks and we didn’t shoot the ball great.”

» Donovan on MSU C Renardo Sidney: “You can catch the ball on him. He’s not going to fight and try to take away post position. But what happens is, when you put the ball on the floor to go and make a move, he doesn’t move.”

» Donovan on MSU G Bost: “We guarded him in pick-and-roll action three different ways. We trapped him just to get the ball out of his hands … and make him throw the ball to somebody else. When he’s coming off a pick-and-roll, there’s so many options for him because he can score and he can pass.”

» Donovan on his team taking five charges on Saturday: “If you’re not a shot-blocking team, and we’re not, you have to put your body in play and take charges.”

» Beal on Young’s impact: “Whenever Pat is in the game, he just brings energy. Whenever he checks in the game, the crowd is always screaming and there’s always excitement.”

» Walker on the team’s SEC experience: “We work real hard in practice. Coach puts us in every situation possible. We know games versus these good teams are not going to be easy. You just got to be able to defend, and when you can defend you’ll be in any game.”

» Young on getting back on SportsCenter’s Top Plays: “I’ve had like 12 dunks the last two games. They’ve got to do something.”

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No. 13 Gators charge past No. 16 Bulldogs 69-57

A highly-contested contest for most of the game, the No. 13/14 Florida Gators (17-4, 5-1 SEC) used quality defense and high-percentage shots to pull away from their opponent and defeat the No. 16/18 Misssissippi State Bulldogs (17-5, 4-3 SEC) 69-57 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday afternoon.

Florida freshman guard Brad Beal played his most complete game of the year for the Gators, scoring a game-high 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting while going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. UF shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from downtown as a team and registered 15 assists while turning the ball over just five times in the victory.

Shooting poorly early and down three points midway through the first half, Florida used a 7-2 run and an 8-2 scoring stretch to take a 27-20 lead with 3:06 left before the break. Mississippi State answered with five-straight points, but junior forward Erik Murphy’s third trey of the first 20 minutes helped UF hold a three-point advantage at halftime.

The Gators and Bulldogs battled early in the second half until Florida began to pull away again thanks to a 7-1 run that put them up 47-39 with 10:43 remaining. UF played top-notch defense during the scoring stretch with a pair of charges by redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario and sophomore forward Will Yeguete as two of the standout plays.

The highlight of the game also came during the run as Gators sophomore center Patric Young threw down a hammer dunk on a put-back from a missed three-pointer shot by senior point guard Erving Walker.

Florida found its advantage reduced to just four points but quickly put together an 11-0 run fueled by a pair of powerful dunks by Young to take a game-high 15-point lead, 62-47, with 3:46 to play. Mississippi State failed to find the bottom of the net for a stretch of 4:25 and was simply unable to fight back from the double-digit deficit.

The Gators, despite not taking a free throw for the first 35 minutes of the game and not making one until there was 1:13 left in the contest, won their 17th consecutive game at the O’Dome. Florida had 15 assists on 27 baskets, won the turnover battle 14-5 and outscored MSU off turnovers (13-7), in the paint (28-14), off the bench (20-10) and on second chance opportunities (9-3).

The Bulldogs outrebounded the Gators 34-26 (8-5 offensive) but failed to score consistently enough to keep the game close in the waning minutes only receiving 12 points apiece from G Dee Bost and F Arnett Moultrie.

Beal added four rebounds and just one turnover to his total but was not the only Florida player who played well offensively. Young scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with six boards in 24 minutes, and Murphy added 14 points by making 4-of-7 attempts from downtown. Young, Yeguete and Rosario combined for five charges in the game.

Junior G Kenny Boynton, the Gators’ leading scorer this season, was held to just two points but remained a factor by dishing five dimes to help his team. Walker reached 10 points and added four assists while only giving up the ball once.

Victorious in a pair of hard-fought games in a three-day span, Florida will have four days off before trying to perform the feat again next weekend in a pair of home games. UF will host South Carolina on Thursday at 9 p.m. (ESPN2) before Vanderbilt comes to town for a 1 p.m. game Saturday on CBS.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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No. 13 Florida vs. No. 16 Mississippi St. Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 1:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: SEC Network (affiliates)
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(13) FLORIDA GATORS (16) MISSISSIPPI ST. BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Stansbury
Record: 16-4 (4-1) Record: 17-4 (4-2)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -9.5; O/U TBD

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Mississippi State 57-49, sporting a 10-8 record against MSU under Donovan and a 35-12 record at home in Gainesville. The Bulldogs, however, are 4-1 against the Gators in the last five matchups.
» Florida is 57-17 against former SEC West opponents since 2000 and 13-1 against those same teams since 2010.
» The Gators have won 16-straight games at the O’Connell Center (10-0 this season).
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made a three in 671 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» Florida has posted a positive assist-to-turnover margin in 15-of-16 victories but has put forth a negative ratio in that category in all four of their losses.
» The Gators are 281-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida is four victories away from winning 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season, which is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» Mississippi State is 1-2 in SEC road games this season.
» Of the Bulldogs’ four losses this year, only one is to a ranked opponent (Baylor).
» Florida is ranked No. 7 in scoring offense (81.3 points), No. 8 in scoring margin (16.0 points), No. 1 in three-pointers (10.6 per game), No. 13 in field goal percentage from three (40.5 percent), No. 15 in assists (16.8 per game) and No. 4 in assist/turnover ratio (1.51) nationally as of Jan. 26. The Gators are also 211th (out of 338 teams) in free throw shooting (67.3 percent).
» Mississippi State commits more fouls per game than any other team in the country, averaging 13.3 each contest.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Mississippi State last squared off a year ago with the Bulldogs earning a 71-64 victory on their home court. The Gators held a one-point lead late in the second half, but MSU scored the final seven points of the game to pull out the hard-fought victory. Dee Bost scored a game-high 24 points for Mississippi State, and Erving Walker chipped in 18 for Florida on a paltry 6-of-17 shooting performance. UF struggled to score throughout the game, hitting just 39.7 percent of their attempts from the field while shooting 23.8 percent from downtown.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 127 consecutive games with 66-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in minutes (3,807) and treys (259) but also ranks second in points (1,585), assists (479), steals (145) and free throws made (392). Walker is No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No. 3 in assists, No. 8 in free throws, No. 4 in threes made, No. 2 in treys attempted (671) and No. 5 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 82.1 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 assists per game.
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (48.8 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,361) and third in three-pointers (222). He had hit a trey in 34-straight games and is the SEC’s second-leading scorer averaging 18.0 points per game. Boynton is No. 6 on UF’s list for threes made.
» Freshman G Bradley Beal (#23)…who is starting at the three for Florida fresh out of high school. Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, one of the top five players in the country, and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He is averaging 13.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 72.6 percent from the line (third-best on the team) while playing a team-high 33.6 minutes per game.
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 11.4 points, 6.8 boards and 1.1 blocks per game.
» Forwards junior Erik Murphy (#33) and sophomore Will Yeguete (#15)…who are trying to be do-everything players for Florida. Murphy is posting averages of 10.4 points and 4.2 boards with team-highs of 1.3 blocks and 47.5 percent accuracy from three. Yeguete is averaging 4.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 22.0 minutes per game.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who is finally playing for Florida after transferring out of Rutgers and sitting out the 2010-11 season. Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with his former team and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ de facto sixth man and is seeing 16.2 minutes of court time each game, averaging 8.5 points while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.

MISSISSIPPI STATE
» F Arnett Moultrie (#23)…who is leading his team in scoring (17.1 points) and rebounding (11.2 boards) as well as shooting percentage both from the field (.563) and downtown (.500). Moultrie is also hitting 81.0 percent of his free throw attempts making him a dangerous offensive threat anywhere he is on the floor.
» PG Dee Bost (#3)…who has averaged 12 points and 5.8 assists in four career games against Florida and is known as one of the most clutch players in the league. He is averaging 16.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game this season but is only hitting 38.1 percent of his field goals.
» G Rodney Hood (#4)…who is proving himself as one of the best freshmen in the league averaging 11.5 points, 5.0 boards and 2.1 dimes per game while netting 39.7 percent of his chances from beyond the arc. Hood is playing 34.2 minutes per game and is the third-leading scorer for the Bulldogs.

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1/27: Donovan on Young, early departures, Walker

The No. 13/14 Florida Gators earned their second true road victory Thursday coming from behind to defeat the Ole Miss Rebels 64-60 in Oxford, MS. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) out of the starting lineup again with ankle tendinitis, head coach Billy Donovan updated his player’s status on Friday and spoke about a number of other topics concerning the team.

YOUNG MAY WORK WAY BACK INTO STARTING LINEUP

Though he has not yet sat out yet due to his injury, Young has begun the last three contests on the bench but still managed to play more than 24 minutes in each of the last two games. Donovan said once again on Friday that Young is feeling better, but he still remains unsure as to whether or not he will start on Saturday against the No. 16/18 Mississippi State Bulldogs.

“I haven’t seen any carry over or effect from the ankle after we held him out during our bye week,” he said. “This whole week of practice he was in every second. He wasn’t complaining about it. I know he’s still getting treatment. I’m sure it’s sore. I’m sure it does maybe take him a little while to get going. I didn’t see anything coming off the bench last night where he looked slow getting started. He seemed to be in a pretty good place.”

Donovan said that he has not addressed Young’s status for Saturday but that it will be a topic of discussion Friday night.

“We’ll probably meet as a staff and talk a little bit about that. I will talk to Patric as well. I want to get a feeling of where he’s at right now,” he said. “Obviously he played very well [Thursday] night and I thought we got some really good minutes out of him in the LSU game as well. I kind of want to see how he feels, would he feel feel more comfortable back in the starting lineup or would he prefer to come off the bench?”

He would not say specifically that Young’s conditioning is an issue, but Donovan did note that he wants him to be able to maintain his level of intensity longer or at least be more consistent with it while he is in games.

“Patric’s conditioning is interesting because he goes so hard for such short periods that he almost takes himself to exhaustion,” Donovan explained. “Part of the thing that he needs to learn to do is he’s got to push through some of that and learn how to play when he’s a little bit tired. I don’t really see a lot of a drop off from where he was before.”

NOT WORRIED ABOUT EARLY DEPARTURES – YET

Even though he has three supremely talented starters, including two top-rated underclassmen, likely to seek out information about playing in the NBA following the season, Donovan is not presently concerned about what the future might hold.

As a coach who has seen players stick around to repeat a national championship but also witnessed two leave early for the NBA Draft recently, he is less concerned about whether or not his players try their hand at the pros bur rather how uncertain the situation can be.

“You don’t know [what’s going to happen] and that’s the thing that’s hard sometimes and that can be challenging,” he said. “Sometimes you actually spend more time recruiting them when you do coaching them and that’s the hard part.”

As far as Young and guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal go, Donovan said he has not noticed any of them discussing their future at all this season.

“Those guys are really level-headed right now. They don’t talk about it,” he said. “I really think those guys are totally in tune right now of trying to play this season. I think that they all realize, if our team does well and they do well, maybe down the road there’s time to make a decision. I don’t get a sense from them that it is even on their mind or that they’re talking about it, at least in my conversations. They’ve been pretty focused on playing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On fighting back from 16 points down against Ole Miss: “Part of us getting down like we did 20-4 was we didn’t make shots early in the game. We had pretty decent looks ourselves. Patric got the ball a couple times and just didn’t finish some plays. We missed a couple runners in the lane. We really didn’t get to the free throw line. But we kind of weathered the storm and hung in there. […] I didn’t really sense from our guys that they were disappointed or frustrated or bothered. I thought that they just hung in there and kept playing.”

» On if the win was a confidence booster for the team: “Anything that’s happened in the past at home or on the road, it really doesn’t mean anything. It’s over and done with.”

» On senior point guard Erving Walker’s performance on Thursday: “Erv was really good outside of that turnover where he slipped. He had nine assists in the game and one turnover. He played a very good floor game. He got guys shots [Thursday] night. He made some great interior passes to Patric for some dunks. It was a situation where I thought he made the game easier for everybody else last night. He really did do a very good job. He’s the guy you want to have with the ball in his hands to get fouled. He just unfortunately slipped in that situation. […] That was his only turnover for really 39 minutes of play. I thought from a floor game standpoint he played really well.”

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SIX BITS: NFL injuries, Tebow, Munroe, women

1 » New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, one of the team’s leading receivers this year with 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns through two games, sprained his MCL during Sunday afternoon’s game and will be out of action at least 1-2 weeks, according to the Boston Globe. Also injured on Sunday was Chicago Bears free safety Major Wright, who was hit hard in his contest and was removed from the field with what was considered a head injury. After further evaluation, Wright was diagnosed with a “stiff neck” and not a concussion, which means he does not have to miss his team’s next game. However, Wright may not start anyway as, according to the Chicago Tribune, the team is considering moving Brandon Meriweather into the starting role.

2 » Denver Broncos second-year player Tim Tebow has yet to see the field as a quarterback in 2011 after leading his team to a 1-2 record in three starts to conclude the 2010 season. However, Tebow got into his team’s game on Sunday as a wide receiver due to injuries to some of the other players. According to NBC Sports, Tebow asked the coaching staff if he could play receiver on the scout team rather than do nothing during practice. The coaches agreed and allowed him to fill the role and he wound up playing out wide on Sunday as a result. Head coach John Fox said Monday that the Broncos only consider Tebow a quarterback and have no plans to play him at receiver going forward.

3 » Former Florida Gators safety Dorian Munroe, who OGGOA recently profiled as we broke the story that he would be playing for the Toronto Varsity Blues of OUA Canadian college football, was interviewed in a profile piece on The Score out of Canada. Through three games with Toronto, Munroe has 13 tackles and an interception.

4 » In unrelated Tebow news, he told the Associated Press last week that, while he appreciated the support of fans who were raising money for billboards declaring that he should start for Denver, he hoped they were “going to do the right thing” with the money and donate it to charity. Fox, asked about the billboard, said, “I’ve seen a lot of billboards and I can’t remember one that really influenced me.”

5 » No. 9 Florida soccer (8-2) ended its non-conference slate over the weekend with a pair of decisive road victories. On Friday, the Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers (7-2) behind a pair of goals by freshman midfielder Annie Speese at 43’ and 86’. Sunday’s 7-2 blowout of the Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) was a total team effort with six different players scoring. Speese added her third goal of the weekend at 20’, but freshman forward Tahnai Annis opened and closed the contest with goals at 9’ and 89’. Florida will continue its four-game road trip with a pair of games against Georgia (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) as they open Southeastern Conference play. UF will then return to Gainesville, FL for a five-game homestand.

6 » No. 6/7 Gators volleyball (8-2, 1-0 SEC) began league play on Friday with a 3-0 shutout (25-20, 25-18, 26-24) of the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-5, 0-1 SEC) on the road in Starkville, MS. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy, who was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts, posted a triple-double with 10 kills, 19 assists and 11 digs in the match. Also excelling Friday was senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel, who led the team with 14 kills on the evening. After playing their last three matches on the road, Florida will return home for a two contests next weekend against Kentucky (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) before hitting the road the following weekend.

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Tucker’s three-run blast powers Gators past Bulldogs 8-6 and into College World Series

It took a day longer than they may have liked, but No. 2 Florida Gators baseball (50-17) advanced to its second-straight College World Series on Sunday with a come-from-behind 8-6 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (38-25) in game three of the Super Regionals at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators will compete at the CWS in Omaha, NE in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, using a three-run homer by junior right fielder Preston Tucker in the seventh to take back a lost lead and propel themselves to victory. UF hit five bombs Sunday, setting a season-high for home runs in a single game as part of their win.

Florida jumped on Mississippi State early, hitting three home runs in the first two innings and taking an early 4-0 lead. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino got things started by cranking a solo shot with two outs in the first. Junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott lined a two-run homer over the left field wall in the second and the very next batter, redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB), followed suit with the first dinger of his college career.

Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis got the start for the Gators and retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced through three innings. Things fell apart for him in the fourth after he allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning. With no outs, Bulldogs second baseman Nick Vickerson tagged Panteliodis for a three-run bomb to left-center, cutting Florida’s big lead to 4-3.

Pulled after allowing the tying run on in the fifth, Panteliodis (4.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 H) was substituted for with junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson, who let the runner advance to second on a wild pitch but got out of the inning unscathed. Larson was pulled just one inning later after getting Vickerson to ground out but allowing the game-tying and go-ahead runs on base via consecutive singles.

At that point Larson (IP, 2 H, K) was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde (1.1 IP, ER, H, K), who got out of the sixth but left in the seventh after giving up a two-out double. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo looked to save the day but struggled mightily at first, walking the first batter on four-straight pitches and allowing Vickerson to hit a liner to right to tie the game 4-4. He then gave up a bases loaded single to left fielder Brent Brownlee, who plated two more and put Mississippi State ahead 6-4 on six unanswered runs.

The Gators started the bottom of the inning with back-to-back walks before Bulldogs closer Caleb King was called upon to get Zunino out. Zunino (2-4, HR, RBI, R) instead threw down a sacrifice bunt to place the game-tying run on second with one out. Faced with a 3-1 count, Tucker (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB) powered the ball to deep center field, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer to give Florida a 7-6 lead.

Toledo sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the eighth, sending the game into the bottom of the inning where Pigott (3-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) hit his second homer of the afternoon to put the Gators ahead 8-6 with just three outs to go. Toledo (6-3) returned for the ninth and retired the side again, forcing Vickerson to fly out to center for the final out of the game. He finished the contest with 2.1 strong innings and threw the final seven outs of the game after giving up two earned runs on two hits with two walks.

Panteliodis set a school record with his sixth NCAA Tournament start, and senior second baseman Josh Adams set another for most games played in a Florida uniform (248). With his three-run homer, Tucker joined the school’s three-man 200 RBI club (Brad Wilkerson, Matt LaPorta) and proved how dangerous he is behind Zunino.

The 65th College World Series is set to begin on June 18 with the Gators holding the No. 2 overall seed as long as top-seed Virginia advances.

 

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Bulldogs smack walk-off, two-run homer to top Gators 4-3, force game three in Super Regional

No. 2 Florida Gators baseball looked to be in control all afternoon, but it took a single pitch from sophomore left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez to change that. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Mississippi State Bulldogs second baseman Nick Vickerson hit a walk-off, two-run homer to give his team a 4-3 victory and force game three in the Super Regionals at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

MSU (38-24) came from behind to tie the game 2-2 in the seventh and capitalized on a pitching change by Florida (49-17) to require the winner-takes-all contest on Sunday.

Hoping to continue his exceedingly successful freshman campaign, right-handed pitcher Kasrten Whitson got the start for the Gators on Saturday and looked great most of the game, only allowing one hit while striking out six batters in his first six innings before being pulled after getting into trouble in the seventh.

The contest began with two scoreless innings until Florida rallied in the top of the third. With freshman third baseman Cody Dent (1-4, R) on via a lead-off walk and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (3-5) joining him on the bags with a double to right-center, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-3, RBI, BB) stepped up and hit a sacrifice fly and score UF’s first run of the game.

The Gators added another in the fourth off a solo homer to right-center by senior 2B Josh Adams (2-4, HR, RBI, R) but also stranded men on first and second by getting back-to-back outs to end the inning.

Whitson retired 13 consecutive Bulldogs and headed into the seventh with a one-hitter. Then, with one out in the inning, he allowed three-straight singles and Mississippi State plated their first run. UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan immediately pulled him for junior RHP Tommy Toledo, who entered with one out and runners on the corners.

Toledo gave up a RBI single up the middle to his first batter, which tied the game 2-2, before forcing a 5-3 double play to end the inning. Whitson’s day concluded with two earned runs on four hits in 6.1 innings.

Florida looked to get their lead back right away, beginning the eighth with sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-5, R) doubling off the wall in center and eventually nabbing third by taking advantage of a ball in the dirt two batters later. He was plated soon after by junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-4, RBI), who smacked a two-out, two-strike stand-up triple to deep left-center, giving Florida a 3-2 lead.

Toledo notched the first out in the eighth and was relieved by junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde. He forced the final two outs of the inning and sent the game into the ninth, where he allowed a lead-off hit to start the inning and was pulled for Rodriguez (3-2), who gave up the homer to Vickerson on his very first pitch.

Bulldogs pitcher Caleb Reed, the team’s closer all season, earned the victory after being substituted in relief and tossing the final 5.1 innings of the game. He only allowed a single earned run on four hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

The Gators are now 34-10 all-time at home during NCAA play and lost for the seventh time all season when scoring first and third time when out-hitting their opponent. Florida and Mississippi State will play again Sunday at 1 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to the 2011 College World Series. The game will air live on ESPN.

Either sophomore RHP Brian Johnson (8-3, 3.66 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) or junior RHP Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) will likely get the start for UF on Sunday.

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Gators cage Bulldogs 11-1 in Super Regional

On a scorching day at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, nothing was hotter than the home team’s offense. Scoring in the first five innings of the game, No. 2 Florida Gators baseball (49-16) demolished the Mississippi State Bulldogs (37-24) 11-1 in the first of the three-game Super Regional series taking place over the weekend.

Florida’s offense was not the only thing on fire Friday as sophomore left-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (10-3) was absolute dynamite on the mound, only allowing a single earned run while striking out a season-high eight batters in eight innings of work.

The Gators’ offense was potent out of the gate, plating four runs in the first. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana led off with a walk and was joined on base by senior center fielder Bryson Smith and junior right fielder Preston Tucker (0-3, R, 2 BB), who reached via a single and walk, respectively. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino capitalized with a bases loaded two-RBI double, and senior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-5, 2 RBI) followed suit two batters later to help another pair of runs cross the plate.

Fontana (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) connected with a two-run homer to right in the second, and Zunino (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) added a solo shot on the first pitch of the third to provide Florida with an early 7-0 advantage that the team hoped to improve upon.

That is exactly what the Gators did in the fourth, as Smith hit a one-out single up the middle to plate freshman third baseman Cody Dent (1-1, RBI, 2 R, 2 BB), and senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-5, RBI) singled through the left side of the infield to score Smith (3-5, RBI, R). Florida tacked in one more run in the seventh via a solo shot by junior designated player Daniel Pigott (1-4, HR, RBI, R).

The Gators improved to 34-9 all-time at home during NCAA play and are now 37-6 when scoring first and 40-2 when out-hitting their opponent this season.

With the series-opening victory, Florida needs only one more win to advance to the 2011 College World Series for the second-straight year. It would be the first time in school history that the Gators would make an appearance in the CWS in consecutive seasons.

Game two of the Gainesville Super Regional takes place Saturday at 12 p.m. and airs live on ESPN and ESPN3.com. Game three, if necessary, will begin Sunday at 1 p.m.

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