GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Redshirt-junior starting pitcher Ethan Small was dominant and senior outfielder Elijah MacNamee made two huge plays late in the game as the No. 7 Mississippi State baseball program took the series opener from No. 4 Florida 6-5 on Friday at McKethan Stadium.
A key sequence in the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth innings eventually led to the win, as MacNamee chased down a fly ball in the right-field corner for the final out of the eighth inning to save a Florida (14-6, 0-1 SEC) run from scoring. He then delivered a two-RBI double to make it a 6-2 game in favor of Mississippi State (17-1, 1-0 SEC) entering the bottom of the ninth.
It got tense in the bottom of the ninth, as the first four Gator hitters reached base against graduate student Cole Gordon to produce two runs. Gordon then got a ground out, before a sacrifice fly plated Florida’s fifth run of the game. With a runner on third and two outs, Gordon finished off the game with a strikeout to move MSU’s winning streak to 13 games.
Small allowed just one run on two hits in six innings of work. The left-hander walked three and struck out 11 for this fourth double-digit strikeout effort of the season.
“He competed," State head coach Chris Lemonis said. "He competed all night long against a really good lineup. A lineup that has put up some runs lately, then, he had to go out in the sixth and face some of their better guys. He really wanted the ball and that is what you need on Friday night, (which is) the most competitive kid on our staff to go out there and pitch the way he did.”
Senior Jared Liebelt continued to have a solid 2019, tossing one scoreless inning of relief with one strikeout.
At the plate, the top six in the State order produced nine hits and scored all six runs. Five of the six reached base multiple times, with MacNamee, senior Jake Mangum and sophomore Tanner Allen and Justin Foscue all collecting two hits.
“That is the grittiness of us with two strikes," Lemonis said of the hitting approach of the Bulldogs. "We just tried to shorten up and put the ball in play. (Tommy) Mace was really good early and we have to make some adjustments and take some pitches. It was just about putting balls in play hard and we were able to get some hits out of it.”