BASEBALL: MSU drops contest to North Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Mississippi State baseball team came out on the short end of an offensive slugfest Saturday at Harmon Stadium. North Florida scored the game's final 13 runs to take a 17-9 victory in the middle game of a three-game weekend series.

The series finale is set for noon CT Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs are scheduled to give sophomore right-hander Ricky Bowen his first career start. M-State won the series and season opener, 8-2 Friday afternoon.

Again, things appeared to be in good shape for the Maroon and White Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs scored five runs in the fourth inning to open up a 9-4 advantage. The Ospreys answered rather quickly. North Florida scored a single run in the fifth inning and then exploded for five runs in the sixth inning and six more scores in the seventh inning to put the contest out of reach.

For a second straight day, the Bulldogs grabbed a quick lead thanks to the long ball. Friday, MSU's Andy Rice belted a grand slam to start the scoring. Saturday, Connor Powers hit a two-run home run in the top half of the first inning, giving MSU a 2-0 lead.

The Bulldogs increased the lead with an RBI single by Johnny Allen in the second inning and also scored on a double play ball in the third inning, UNF battled back for a 4-4 tie with three runs in its half of the third inning.

In the M-State fourth inning, five runs were scored. Tyler Moore walked to begin that at-bat. Jeff Flagg reached on a fielder's choice. Jason Nappi advanced Flagg with a base hit. Allen broke the tie with an RBI double. After Nick Hardy walked, Grant Hogue connected for a sacrifice fly. Russ Sneed followed with a run-scoring hit, before Brandon Turner drove a pair of runs home with a single.

The Ospreys then dominated play from there. In the UNF sixth inning, an RBI single by Travis Martin tied the game. An infield error then allowed UNF to plate the go-ahead score. North Florida them removed all doubt, an inning later, when Preston Hale hit a grand slam home run.

Starting pitcher Chad Crosswhite pitched five-plus innings for the Bulldogs. Crosswhite allowed nine hits and seven runs (all earned), while walking two and striking out three. Michael Busby and Jared Wesson both followed in the sixth inning. Wesson finished the sixth inning and started the seventh inning, before giving way to Tyler Whitney, who finished the contest. Wesson (0-1) took the loss.

John Raiford (1-0) was solid in middle relief for UNF and earned the victory. Raiford allowed four hits and one run (earned) in three innings of relief work, following the starter John Atteo. Tyler Stohr completed the contest and earned his first save.

For a second straight contest, MSU finished with 10 hits. Allen – making his first start at MSU – paced the Bulldogs' attack with three hits. Sneed also had a multiple hit performance.

Sunday's series finale may be heard locally on WFCA-FM and also via the Internet through M2M. A video feed may be purchased for $5.99 through the Atlantic 10 Conference at www.asun.tv. The Bulldogs open a 14-game homestand with a 4 p.m. start versus UAB Tuesday at Dudy Noble Field.