No. 2/5 Florida Gators baseball opened their Southeastern Conference schedule this weekend, sweeping the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a three game series at McKethan Stadium. Taking down the Bulldogs (11-9, 0-3 SEC) by consecutive scores of 7-2, 5-4 and 4-1, the Gators (16-3, 3-0 SEC) will take on Florida Gulf Coast in the final game of their 11-game homestand before spending about a week on the road.
In the series’ first game, sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis (5-0) tossed a career-high 7.1 innings, only allowing four hits and two runs while registering three strikeouts. Florida put together a five-run sixth inning to take a commanding lead, with freshman designated hitter Austin Maddox (2-4) smacking a two-run double and hitting a solo home run. Sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-4) continued his hot streak by scoring two runs and homering for this third-straight game.
The following night, the Gators powered their way to victory with a four-run seventh inning rally that included sophomore outfielder Tyler Thompson (2-3) stealing home plate and Tucker (2-4, three RBI) hitting a two-run double. Sophomore Nick Maronde (2-0) entered in the seventh and picked up a win in 1.2 innings of work even though junior closer Kevin Chapman (S4) allowed two earned runs (he still recorded the save).
Having already clinched the series, Florida was looking to improve their record on Sunday, and a three-run dinger by Maddox in the eighth inning provided them with the series sweep. Chapman came in to relieve a tired Gators bullpen that suffered through 94 minutes of a rain delay; he threw 2.1 scoreless innings and totaled four strikeouts to pick up his first win of the season.
The weekend’s sweep was the team’s first against Mississippi State since 2002. Florida has matched its season-high five-game winning streak and received an elevation to No. 2 in the nation on Monday.