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Monday, May 20, 2024

Mississippi State storms ahead in middle innings, even series at one game apiece

Florida surrendered 11 runs in the middle innings

Florida baseball head coach Kevin O'Sullivan takes a mound visit in the team's 12-2 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday, March 30, 2024.
Florida baseball head coach Kevin O'Sullivan takes a mound visit in the team's 12-2 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday, March 30, 2024.

Everything was working well for Liam Peterson until the fourth inning.

Cushioned behind a one-run lead earned in the second, Florida’s freshman right-hander tossed three flawless innings, surrendering just one hit.

Then, disaster unfolded.

Peterson surrendered back-to-back home runs to start the fourth inning and never regained his footing. He was taken out in hopes the Gators relievers would keep it competitive, but it only got worse.

The No. 6 Florida Gators (15-11, 5-3 SEC) were outpaced in the middle innings against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (19-9, 4-4 SEC) and lost 12-2 Saturday night at Condron Family Ballpark. The Bulldogs scored 11 runs between the fourth and sixth inning.

Saturday’s outing marked the fourth consecutive start Peterson has allowed four or more runs. It also was the fourth consecutive start he’s failed to make it past the fourth inning. It’s been a season of highs and lows for the freshman who started off fantastic at the beginning of the season.

Peterson made his collegiate debut against the North Florida Ospreys Feb. 20. In just 37 pitches, the right-hander tossed seven strikeouts and delivered three scoreless innings. He followed that start with four more innings of no-run baseball against the Columbia Lions four days later.

However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing since then.

On Saturday, Peterson cruised through the first three innings but imploded in the fourth. He surrendered back-to-back home runs and four singles to make it a 5-1 ballgame favoring Mississippi State.

Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan took him out for freshman reliever Grayson Smith, who also struggled just as much. Smith lasted 1 1/3 innings and surrendered three runs on three hits and a walk. 

“We’re gonna have to learn at some point,” O’Sullivan said. “We're gonna have to make some pitches in key spots during the game.”

Freshman reliever Alex Philpott entered in the sixth and lasted the rest of the game. He pitched four innings and allowed four runs.

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Florida’s offense didn’t do much other than a couple of short bursts of success in the second and sixth innings.

The Gators took a 1-0 lead in the second inning off a single by senior catcher Tanner Garrison, which drove in sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland. In the sixth, Kurland hit a two-out, RBI single to make it an 11-2 game.

Florida couldn’t find any success against Mississippi State's ambidextrous starter Jurrangelo Clijntje. Throwing primarily right-handed, Clijntje tossed seven innings and tallied eight strikeouts, surrendering just two runs.

Bulldogs reliever Tyson Hardin followed with two scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. The Gators struck out 10 times Saturday.

Florida will wrap up its series against the Bulldogs at 1 p.m. Sunday at Condron Family Ballpark. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+. 

Contact Luke Adragna at Follow him on Twitter @lukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.

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