By The Associated Press
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Hudson Randall spent two months stewing about his performance the last time he faced Mississippi State. He was finally able to do something about it Friday.
The sophomore right-hander atoned for his worst outing of the season with his best to lead the Gators to an 11-1 victory in the opener of the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional.
Randall gave up six hits and struck out a season-high eight batters over eight stellar innings, pitching Florida within one game of the College World Series.
“I was a little anxious coming out, and being in the Super Regional against Mississippi State pumped me up a little more because they tattooed me over in Starkville,” Randall said. “I missed pitching against them in the SEC tournament, so I was really excited to come back out.”
Randall was knocked out by Mississippi State the last time he faced them, allowing a season-high six runs in 2 1-3 innings of a 7-5 loss on April 8. Three home runs were among the season-high nine hits that he allowed during his first loss of hte season.
On Friday, the Bulldogs (37-24) could only scratch out one run on Jarron Shepherd’s RBI single in the sixth. Florida still led 10-1 at that point, and Randall set down the next nine batters before giving way to reliever Keenan Kish for the ninth inning.
“Last time in Starkville, I think I was leaving the ball up too much,” said Randall, who improved to 10-3. “I’m a sinkerball pitcher so I was sinking the ball a little bit better and hitting my spots on both sides of the plate. That was a big difference.”
The Bulldogs had five runners in the first five innings, but struggled to get them home.
“He kept the ball down a lot,” said Jarrod Parks, who had two of Mississippi State’s seven hits. “He wasn’t leaving a lot of pitches up like he did the first game at home. He didn’t walk a lot of people. He just did a good job mixing it up side to side, either side of the plate, and kept our hitters off balance.”
Florida (49-16) had no trouble offensively, hitting three home runs and chasing starter Evan Mitchell (6-2) after just two innings.
Nolan Fontana hit a two-run shot in the second inning, Mike Zunino added a solo shot the next inning, and Daniel Pigott went deep in the seventh inning to make it 11-1.
Zunino also drove in two runs in the first inning with a single.
Florida led 7-0 after three innings, and has outscored opponents 34-1 in the first three innings in the NCAA tournament. The Gators also have scored at least 11 runs in three of their last four games heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Bulldogs.
Game 2 Saturday at 11 a.m. CST.
A victory would send Florida to the College World Series in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. It would be the seventh trip overall.