Gators Cade Kurland
Gators second baseman Cade Kurland led Florida to a walk-off win over Mississippi State on Friday night. [Photo by Te'a Startz/FloridaGators.com]

Cade Kurland Leads Gators To Walk-Off Win Over Mississippi State

Entering the bottom of the ninth inning against the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs, things looked bleak for the No. 6 Florida Gators facing a two-run deficit. But the Gators refused to back down at Condron Family Ballpark.

Junior  Ty Evans cut the deficit to one run with a single. Two at-bats later, senior Tyler Shelnut secured a bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 6-6. Sophomore Cade Kurland then singled to win the game for Florida on Friday, 7-6.

After only recording three hits in the first seven innings, Florida (15-10, 5-2 SEC) blasted out five hits in the final two frames for a thrilling comeback victory against MSU (18-9, 3-4).

Tanner Garrison, Evans and Kurland all recorded two hits for the Gators. Garrison and Evans also each knocked out a long ball early in the ballgame, while both of Kurland’s hits came later.

On the mound, junior right-hander Brandon Neely couldn’t put the pieces together in his first start of the season. Neely lasted 3 1/3 innings to finish with a line of five hits, two walks, five runs and four strikeouts. Nevertheless, Florida’s bullpen came together to limit MSU to just one run in the final five innings.

“I’m really proud of the way that Cade Fisher pitched tonight,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Without that performance, we wouldn’t have won the ballgame. Blake Purnell came in and did his job in the eighth… And obviously, [Luke McNeillie] came in [the ninth] and did a good job.

Florida Starts Off Strong

Evans wasted no time in cracking the scoreboard for the Gators. In Florida’s second at-bat of the game, he knocked a deep fly ball into right field. The crowd held its breath as the ball kept on carrying through the air. Eventually, it landed just beyond the right field berm.

https://twitter.com/GatorsBB/status/1773843416842960926

After some more back-and-forth tussling early in the evening, the Bulldogs got their run back in the top of the third. MSU sophomore David Mershon picked up a two-out walk and stole second base to give his squad a runner in scoring position.

Sophomore right fielder Dakota Jordan immediately capitalized on this opportunity. Jordan belted a single into left-center to bring Mershon home.

But it only took the Gators one at-bat to snatch their lead right back. Garrison smacked a ball deep into left and past the Bulldogs bullpen. Just like that, Florida’s lead was now back up to 2-1.

“I got to that 3-2 count, and I had a really good feeling he was going to throw me a fastball,” Garrison said. “I saw his fastball really well the first two times he threw it, so I was gearing up for it.”

Four Runs In The Fourth For The Bulldogs

With the game still hanging in the balance after three innings, Mississippi State put the pedal to the metal in the top of the fourth. The Bulldogs landed runners on the corners early in the frame via a hit-by-pitch to Aaron Downs and a single from Logan Kohler. Designated hitter Bryce Chance then drilled a single to score Downs and tie the game at 2-all.

In the next at-bat, Johnny Long landed on first via a walk to load the bases. Amani Larry was then hit by a pitch to bring Kohler home. O’Sullivan pulled the plug on Neely, but the damage had already been done.

Sophomore Cade Fisher inherited Neely’s jam with just one out. He eventually retired the side, but not before the Bulldogs drove in two more runs on a sacrifice fly and bases-loaded walk. Florida had suddenly gone from a 2-1 lead to a 5-2 deficit.

Racing Toward A Photo Finish

Fisher did everything in his power to keep the Gators afloat. The lefty pitched 3 1/3 innings, finishing with a line of three hits, two walks, one run and five strikeouts. The one run came in the seventh inning after Fisher had already been removed from the game.

Junior right-hander Fisher Jameson entered the ballgame with a runner on second and two outs in the seventh. Chance welcomed him to the ballgame by knocking the first pitch he saw for a RBI single for a 6-2 lead.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Gators finally started to show some signs of life in the batter’s box. After Colby Shelton and Evans led off the frame with a pair of walks, both runners advanced into scoring position on a Jac Caglianone groundout.

Shelton scored on a line out from Shelnut, but Florida now had two outs on the board. With Evans still at second base, Kurland belted a line drive down the left field line for an RBI double to cut the UF deficit to 6-4.

Freshman right-hander Luke McNeillie (2-3) took the mound for Florida in the ninth. McNeillie sat down all three batters he faced on strikes to keep the Bulldogs at bay.

Fox On The Run: Cade Kurland Wins The Game

UF freshman Hayden Yost started the ninth with a single. Senior pinch hitter Armando Albert followed with a walk to land the potential game-tying run on the base paths. Michael Robertson and Shelton struck out swinging in the following two at-bats, putting Florida’s comeback hopes in jeopardy.

But Evans got the Gators right back on track. Evans cracked a single into left to bring Yost home and narrow the deficit to 6-5. Caglianone followed with a base hit into shallow left to load the bases. As Shelnut came back up to the plate, this next at-bat was for all the marbles.

Shelnut fell behind in the count, with the Bulldogs coming within one strike of sending the Gators packing. But Shelnut hung on to secure a six-pitch bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 6-6. Now, it all came down to Kurland’s at-bat.

He fell behind 0-2 in the count. The fans in attendance held their breath in anticipation for what could be the final pitch of the ballgame. The pitch came in, and Kurland let his bat rip. The ball flew right past the MSU second baseman into center field. As Evans crossed home plate and the crowd went wild, Kurland let it all out at first base.

“I was just screaming,” Kurland said. “I totally blacked out. It was awesome, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Up Next

Game 2 of the series is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s game will begin at 1 p.m. Both games will be on the SEC Network+ and ESPN 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF.

UF freshman right-hander Liam Peterson 1-2, 7.66 ERA) will take to the bump, while sophomore switch pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje (4-1, 3.62) is expected to start for Mississippi State.

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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