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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Florida ekes out sweep against Mississippi State

The Gators scored four runs in the ninth inning to run away with the victory

<p>Sophomore second baseman Sterlin Thompson delivered a walk-off home run against FSU Tuesday.</p>

Sophomore second baseman Sterlin Thompson delivered a walk-off home run against FSU Tuesday.

It was a difficult weekend in Starkville for the Gators.

Florida faced a variety of situations against Mississippi State, each reminiscent of tough losses earlier in conference play. Whether it be nearly blown leads or games trapped in deadlock, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his group encountered a hard fight each night they took the diamond. 

The reward for their efforts? The Gators snagged their first sweep since collecting three wins Feb. 27 against Georgia State.

Florida (29-18, 11-13) defeated the Bulldogs (25-23, 9-15) 6-2 Sunday in a game that came down to the final two innings and some late-stage heroics from sophomore second baseman Sterlin Thompson.

The series was an emotional rollercoaster for the Gators. They began the weekend on fire, coming out with seven unanswered runs in the opening game on Friday. The game nearly slipped away from Florida before freshman pitcher Ryan Slater forced a groundout for the save and an 8-6 victory. 

Saturday, the game was much closer throughout. UF stood even with the Bulldogs until a six-run offensive explosion in the ninth propelled the Gators towards a series-clinching victory. 

Florida fans likely geared up for a similarly gritty finish on Sunday, as both teams were off to a sluggish start in the series finale. 

Mississippi State opened up the scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the first before sophomore infielder Josh Rivera brought freshman designated hitter Jac Caglianone in on a groundout to first in the second, bringing the game even. From there, a sizable scoring drought ensued as each team took turns going three up and three down. 

Both teams found ways to get on base but struggled to convert runners into runs. Florida and MSU combined for a .220 batting average and left ten runners stranded through the first seven innings.

At the top of the eighth, both dugouts were squirmish, awaiting a break in the stalemate. Thompson stepped to the plate.

He hit the first pitch foul before taking a ball and a strike each and tipping another ball out of play. On the fifth pitch of his at bat, Thompson squared up and drove the ball beyond the right field wall to give the Gators a one-run lead.

MSU couldn’t respond heading into the final inning. Florida had just one inning separating it and a series sweep.. 

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The Gators wasted no time creating some cushion for their lead, adding four runs in two back-to-back hits from Rivera and Thompson to strike a dagger through the hearts of the Bulldogs crowd and secure the win.

Freshman righty Jameson Fisher earned his first win of his collegiate career for the Gators. The Palm Beach County, Florida, native threw two strikeouts and earned a 2.57 ERA to close out the final four innings. 

No different from the weekend as a whole, the victory wasn’t easy for Florida. The Gators went down to the wire in each game and barely scraped by. Regardless, UF will travel back to Gainesville having swept the Bulldogs. 

Coming up, Florida has a home rematch against Bethune-Cookman (20-26, 14-9). The Gators took a 3-2 victory in the last contest between the two teams. From there, UF travels to Columbia, Missouri, for a weekend series against Mizzou (25-19, 7-16)

First pitch on Tuesday is set for 6:30 p.m. The game will be streamed on SECNetwork+.

Contact Jackson Castellano at Follow him on Twitter @jaxacastellano.

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Jackson Castellano

Jackson Castellano is a third-year sports media journalism student and the Digital Managing Editor at The Alligator for Spring 2024. In the past, he's served as the Sports Editor, Assistant Sports Editor and a Sports Reporter covering Football, Men's basketball and Baseball.

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