Gators rally late, beat Bulldogs 12-3
HOOVER, Ala. -- The Gators and Bulldogs are now tied for the most come-from-behind victories in the SEC after Florida erased a 3-0 Mississippi State lead in their 22nd come-from-behind win of the season.
The top-seeded Gators beat the No. 5-seeded Bulldogs 12-3 after an 11-run rally in the eighth inning despite losing Ryan Larson and Nick Horvath to injuries earlier in the game.
Larson got hit in the head by a Cole Gordon pitch in the first inning. Then in the fifth inning, Horvath, who had replaced Larson in center field, got hit in the face while diving to catch a fly ball.
"Nick's just got some stitches and I think he'll be okay," said Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. "Crazy game, we played with four center fielders and I just really hope Ryan is okay. It's just kind of a freakish thing. The ball just got away from Cole Gordon just a little bit and looking at Ryan when it happened, he seemed to be okay, but then we he came off the field after running the bases he didn't look quite the same. He went back with the trainer and, like I said, we'll check on him right away."
The 11 eighth-inning runs are the most runs in an inning in the SEC this year, for Florida this season and ties the record for the most in SEC Tournament history. Nine of those 11 runs came with two outs.
"The whole game we didn't hit," said Florida third baseman Jonathan India. "We were just falling apart. To come together like that in the eighth inning it was just, I got a lot of emotions in me. It was just awesome."
Ironically, Mississippi State came back from 3-0 deficit in yesterday's 4-3 second-round win over No. 4 seed Arkansas to make it to this game.
Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan had dangled some motivation in front of his team before the game, telling them they could charter a plane home if they won instead of taking the previously planned eight-hour bus ride back to Gainesville, Florida.
Mississippi State starting pitcher Cole Gordon threw a career-high seven innings and seven strikeouts, holding the Gators to only four hits and no runs. Head coach Andy Cannizaro called sophomore Spencer Price to the mound after Gordon allowed a Christian Hicks single to lead off the inning.
Including Price, Cannizaro called five of his remaining six pitchers before the Bulldogs' defense was able to shut down the Florida rally.
Price walked Mike Rivera before Cannizaro sent freshman Riley Self to pitch. It took Self eight pitches to strike out freshman Garrett Milchin. Self then quickly got ahead 0-2 on sophomore Blake Reese before Reese loaded the bases with a right-field single.
Florida second baseman Deacon Liput's RBI single scored Hicks from third, bringing the score to 3-1.
The next pitch Self threw went over the catcher's head, scoring another run and advancing Reese to third and Liput to second to bring the Gators within one run.
Self then allowed the Gators to load the bases again when he intentionally walked JJ Schwarz.
Facing Nelson Maldonado next, Self struck the right fielder out on three straight pitches and looked poised to shut the Gator rally down.
Self was unable to close out the side, tying the game when he walked Jonathan India then giving the Gators a 5-3 lead when Austin Langworthy's 2 RBI double scored Schwarz and Liput.
Cannizaro then called for RHP Trey Jolly.
Jolly threw four straight balls, walking Hicks. He then walked Rivera after taking him to a full count, scoring India to extend the Gators' lead to 6-3.
Cannizaro then called for RHP Jacob Barton.
Milchin took Barton's second pitch to right field for a 2 RBI single for an 8-3 Florida lead. Barton walked Reese to load the bases yet again before Liput hit a 3 RBI double to left center to bring the score to 11-3.
Cannizaro then called for LHP Andrew Mahoney.
Mahoney promptly retired Schwarz to stop the bleeding, but at that point the damage was done.
The Bulldogs attempted to rally, but left four runners on base in the final two innings to close out the game.
UP NEXT: Mississippi State plays later today against No. 4 seed Arkansas in an elimination game. First pitch is tentatively scheduled for 8 pm ET on SEC Network.
Florida plays the winner of the Mississippi State - Arkansas matchup tomorrow in the semifinals, scheduled to start at approximately 5:30 pm ET on SEC Network.