Gators right fielder Tyler Shelnut
Gators right fielder Tyler Shelnut rounds the bases in game one of Florida's weekend series against Mississippi State.

Gators Surrender Five Home Runs In 12-2 Loss To MSU

For the second time in a row this weekend, the No. 6 Florida Gators found themselves facing a multi-run deficit at the hands of the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs.

But whereas the Gators managed to pull off an impressive comeback in their series-opening win Friday, they did not have as much luck in Game 2 Saturday at Condron Family Ballpark.

Mississippi State (19-9, 4-4 SEC) hit five home runs en route to an 12-2 win. The Gators (15-11, 5-3) could not find a way to put the pieces together at the plate, only recording one hit in the final six innings. UF’s bullpen did not fare much better, surrendering eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings alone to all but seal MSU’s dominant night.

Cade Kurland and Tanner Garrison served as Florida’s sole bright spots at the plate. Kurland finished with a 2-for-3 performance, collecting one run scored and one RBI. Garrison chipped in with an RBI single in the second inning to round out an otherwise lackluster offensive performance for the Gators.

On the mound, UF freshman starter Liam Peterson (1-3) fell victim to another early exit after some turbulence in the fourth inning. Peterson lasted 3 2/3 innings, finishing with a line of seven hits, two walks, five runs and four strikeouts.

Dakota Jordan and Connor Hujsak each hit two home runs for the Bulldogs. Hujsak also drove in six runs on three hits.

Florida Keeps It Close Early On

Florida’s defense immediately clicked on all cylinders to start the evening. Peterson struck out three batters through the first three innings to keep Mississippi State off the scoreboard.

Mississippi State’s only hit in that span, courtesy of a single from designated hitter Bryce Chance, came off the basepaths as well. As soon as Chance took off for second base in the subsequent at-bat, Garrison made a dime of a throw to Kurland at second to catch him stealing.

The Gators’ offense took a bit longer to warm up, but it eventually found its rhythm at the plate as well. Kurland drilled a one-out double to record Florida’s first hit of the game in the second inning. He reached third base on a ground out later in the frame.

The Gators now had a man in prime scoring position, but with a thin margin of error to work with. Yet, even with two outs, Garrison kept his wits about him in the following at-bat. He drilled a single into the left field gap to score Kurland, giving Florida a 1-0 lead.

Mississippi State Takes Over

Mississippi State came roaring back in the fourth. David Mershon led off the frame with a deep fly ball that narrowly landed beyond the right foul pole. Immediately after Mershon’s home run, Jordan followed with a moon shot of his own over the left field wall. In the blink of an eye, Florida had gone from a one-run lead to a one-run deficit.

But the Bulldogs were still far from finished in the fourth. Later on in the inning, Mississippi State knocked in three consecutive RBI singles to extend the lead to 5-1. UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan pulled Peterson before he could escape the inning. Freshman right-hander Grayson Smith took his place to finish the frame.

Leading off the fifth inning, Jordan blasted the first pitch he saw over the left field wall and onto Hull Road for his second home.

After Hunter Hines followed with a single, Hujsak sent a ball just over the “400” mark in center field for Mississippi State’s fourth homer.

From Bad To Worse For Florida

Florida nearly managed to keep the Bulldogs off the board in the sixth inning, with freshman right-hander Alex Philpott picking up two quick outs. However, with the bases already loaded, Hujsak knocked a pop fly into right field. UF right fielder Ty Evans, first baseman Jac Caglianone and Kurland all went after the ball. None of them came down with it.

The miscommunication allowed all three runners to score, with Hujsak safely landing at second on the play. The Gators now faced their first double-digit deficit of the night.

Kurland finally got the Gators back on the board in the sixth. After a leadoff walk from to Colby Shelton and a single from Evans, Kurland belted a ball into right field to bring in Florida’s second run.

Beyond Kurland’s knock, however, the Gators could not muster much else, going scoreless in the final three frames.

Up Next

The teams return to Condron Ballpark on Sunday for the rubber game of the series. Caglianone (3-0, 1.65 ERA) will get the start for Florida, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+ and ESPN 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF.

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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