By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Turns out Hudson Randall is not invincible, and Mississippi State proved it Friday.
A hot start against the SEC’s best pitcher – statistically speaking – and another solid bullpen effort lifted MSU (21-9, 5-5 SEC) to a 7-5 win against No. 4 Florida (24-7, 7-3) in front of 7,123 at Dudy Noble Field.
Randall (5-1), a sophomore right-hander who hadn’t allowed a single earned run in league play, lasted only 21/3 innings, giving up a career-high six runs (all earned) on nine hits. Two of those hits were home runs by senior shortstop Jonathan Ogden, who had the first multi-homer game of his career.
“We didn’t come out here expecting (him) to be the most unhittable guy in the country,” Ogden said. “We knew he was hittable. He was going to fill up the strike zone, so we all had a good approach at the plate.”
MSU coach John Cohen said his players did a lot of film study of Randall, who has strong command of three pitches. He thinks that work helped stave off any intimidation factor.
“We knew he was going to bury a lot of breaking balls and throw a lot of fastballs coming straight at us,” Ogden said.
Caleb Reed, the Bulldogs’ fourth reliever, entered in the eighth and got two Gators looking, but a Mike Zunino double put runners at second and third with two outs.
Reed induced a groundout by Brian Johnson. He then set the Gators down in order in the ninth for his fifth save, just three days after getting the final five outs in a win against Southern Miss.
“That’s the best I’ve located my fastball in a long time,” said Reed, who had four strikeouts. “I worked both sides of the plate, and that’s the reason I could get those lefties out in the big situations.”
Freshman Taylor Stark (2-0) worked two scoreless innings to get the win and set up Reed. MSU’s bullpen gave up just one run after starter Devin Jones left three innings into the game.
“Our starting pitching is solid,” Cohen said, “but we feel like we can go match up with five or six guys, and it really at times can make the other team uncomfortable if you haven’t seen that guy before, you haven’t seen that slider before.”
MSU got to Randall immediately, with leadoff man C.T. Bradford’s single followed by Cody Freeman’s RBI double. The next three runs came with two outs, including Ogden’s two-run homer to left-center field for a 4-2 lead after one inning.
It was the first home run allowed by Randall this season.
The outburst ended his streak of consecutive innings without giving up an earned run at 28, and the four runs matched the number of earned runs he’d given up all season, a stretch of 492/3 innings coming in.
Freeman then blasted his first home run of the season in the second inning, a solo shot with two outs for a 5-2 edge.
After UF cut it to 5-4, Ogden launched a solo homer deep into the Left Field Lounge section, chasing Randall with one out in the third. His ERA jumped from 0.54 (tops in the SEC entering the weekend) to 1.56 with the outing.
MSU finished with 12 hits, as did Florida, but the Gators stranded 12 men on base to State’s seven. Bradford had three hits for MSU.
The Bulldogs, who moved into second place in the SEC Western Division, can take the series at noon today. Sophomore Chris Stratton (4-2, 3.04) will face off against Florida’s Brian Johnson (4-1, 2.92).