Florida preview

Ethan Small has made 15 relief appearances as a true freshman for Mississippi State. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

Ethan Small has made 15 relief appearances as a true freshman for Mississippi State. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

HOOVER, Ala., – No. 3 Mississippi State saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end in the early morning hours of Friday, falling 6-2 to LSU.

Now the top-seeded Bulldogs face elimination as they take on No. 4 seed in the late game at the SEC Tournament tonight, 30 minutes following the Vanderbilt-Texas A&M game which begins at 3 p.m.

MSU (41-15-1) was unable to generate enough offense to keep pace with the red hot Tigers on Thursday. LSU had nine hits off Diamond Dog ace Dakota Hudson in five innings and were rewarded with a Friday bye.

State now meets the Gators for the fourth time this season having previously won a series in Gainesville early last month. Florida won the first game of that series 8-2 but the Bulldogs were able to bounce back with 10-4 and 2-1 wins over the Gators, who were ranked No. 1 at the time.

Tonight will be the 15th time the two teams have met in the SEC Tournament with Florida holding an 8-6 advantage. The Gators won the last meeting in Hoover 5-1 to eliminate Mississippi State in the 2014 SEC Tournament.

Florida also leads the overall series 62-45.

John Cohen‘s club is batting .313 with 42 home runs and scoring 6.7 runs per game. The Diamond Dogs maintain a .975 fielding percentage and have swiped 50 bases in 62 attempts on the year.

SEC Freshman of the Year and Ferris Trophy winner Jake Mangum leads the conference with a .422 batting average while junior first baseman Nathaniel Lowe tops the team with 79 hits, 19 doubles and 47 RBIs. Junior third baseman Gavin Collins has clubbed 10 homers while junior center fielder Jacob Robson is 17-of-19 on stolen base tries.

MSU’s pitching staff has compiled a 3.28 earned run average with 516 strikeouts and 185 walks in 513.1 innings. Opponents are hitting just .243 against them with 26 long balls.

Freshman Ryan Cyr sports a staff-low 1.04 ERA while Hudson leads the team with 107 strikeouts. Junior Reid Humphreys has closed out seven of the Bulldogs’ 17 saves.

Junior Austin Sexton will get the starting nod for the 15th time tonight. Sexton is 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA, 85 strikeouts and 22 walks over 85 innings of work. He surrendered three runs on eight hits, two walks and two strikeouts in a four frame start against Florida on April 9 to earn a no decision.

The Gators will give the ball to junior righty Logan Shore today after missing his scheduled start on Thursday with a stomach illness. Shore is considered a first round MLB Draft pick with a flawless 10- record this season. He has a 2.23 ERA with 76 strikeouts and only 13 walks through 85 innings.

Shore picked up the win against State giving up two runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and no walks in 5 2/3 innings back in April.

Florida (45-12) bounced back from a 14-inning, 5-3 loss to LSU on Wednesday to defeat Alabama 5-4 to remain alive in the SEC Tournament.

Kevin O’Sullivan‘s squad is hitting .280 as a team with 45 homers and averaging 6.1 runs a game. The Gators flash the leather in the field with a .984 fielding percentage and are 68-of-93 on stolen bases.

Junior first baseman Peter Alonso leads Florida with a .352 batting average and is tied with sophomore catcher Mike Rivera with nine home runs and also tied with sophomore catcher JJ Schwarz with 47 runs batted in. Junior center fielder Buddy Reed, another highly projected draft pick, is 22 of 24 on steal attempts.

Florida’s hurlers hold a 2.99 staff ERA with 573 strikeouts and 139 walks in 517.1 innings. Teams are hitting only .228 against them with 27 homers.

Sophomore Alex Faedo has fanned a team-high 102 while junior Shaun Anderson sports a staff-best 1.12 ERA and 11 saves.

Today’s game will be televised on SEC Network.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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