By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State feels it had an offensive breakthrough on Friday night.
The Bulldogs got the clutch hits that have been so elusive, backing a quality start by Luis Pollorena in a 7-3 series-opening win over Florida at Dudy Noble Field.
MSU (25-8, 4-6 SEC) was down 1-0 when it struck for four runs in the third inning off Florida starter Jonathon Crawford (1-5). Brett Pirtle’s RBI double tied it, and he later scored on a passed ball to give State the lead for good.
Florida (14-17, 4-7) committed two errors in the inning, leading to three unearned runs. Just the inning before, MSU had left the bases loaded.
“You can’t understand how huge that was,” right fielder Hunter Renfroe said of Pirtle’s double, on which he scored from first base. “You get that first run across the plate, it’s – you can’t understand.”
Pollorena (5-1), making his second fill-in start of the season as State deals with rotation issues, overcame a tough first inning and allowed two runs on six hits in six innings. After throwing 129 pitches and walking eight at Arkansas last week, he threw just 79 and walked two Friday.
“After the first inning I felt like we started going more first-pitch strikes, and that’s what paid off in the end,” Pollorena said.
Just six days earlier, Crawford pitched a complete-game shutout against Ole Miss. On Friday, he allowed five runs – two earned – on six hits with five walks on 107 pitches.
Renfroe’s 10th home run of the year, a solo blast in the sixth inning, gave MSU a 6-2 lead
Pollorena got plenty of help in the field, including highlight plays by Pirtle and Renfroe, who gunned down a runner at third base to end a Florida threat in the sixth.
“That makes it more comforting to be able to throw strikes,” Pollorena said. “We have one of the best infields in the country, and the outfield, we have so much speed out there.”