HOOVER, Ala. - No. 13 Florida used a season-high 18 hits en route to posting a dominant, 13-1 victory over No. 8 Mississippi State in round two of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday. With the win, the Gators advance to play the winner of today's game between No. 2-seed Tennessee and 10th-seeded Alabama at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.
All nine members of the starting lineup had at least one base hit and five different Gators collected multiple hits while another three players drove in three runs or more. Kris Armstrong (3-for-4) led the way with a career-high four RBI and Josh Rivera (4-for-5) registered a new career high with four hits.
Sterlin Thompson (2-for-5) and Jacob Young (2-for-4) both drove in three runs apiece, with the former notching a new career high in RBI for a single game. Nathan Hickey (3-for-5) had a day at the plate as well, pacing the squad with three runs scored.
After pulling out a round-one win with five hits against Kentucky, Florida (37-19, 17-13 SEC) came out firing on all cylinders offensively with 18 knocks in round two. Florida quickly loaded up the bags in the opening frame, breaking through for their first run on a wild pitch. That early run was followed by a three-run second inning, highlighted by a Young sacrifice fly and two-run single off the bat of Armstrong.
Although Mississippi State (40-14, 20-10 SEC) plated a run of their own in the first inning, the Gators continued to pour it on in the third, scoring five more runs. Thompson led off the frame with his fifth home run of the campaign before Young drove in two runs with a single back up the gut. Topping off the big inning, Armstrong came through once again with a two-run double to left field, effectively making it a 9-1 game heading into the bottom of the third.
Gator starter Hunter Barco settled in after allowing the lone run in the first, producing scoreless frames from the second through the seventh innings. The game remained at a 9-1 tally up until the top of the seventh, when Florida erupted for a four-run frame.
The seventh inning started with the Gators loading the bases prior to Kendrick Calilao bringing in Hickey with a sacrifice fly to center. Thompson then proceeded to drive in two runs with a double down the right-field line and Rivera knocked in Florida's 13th run on an RBI single.
With the SEC Tournament run-rule potentially in effect heading into the bottom of the seventh, Barco stepped up to deliver his sixth-consecutive scoreless inning to close out the contest as the Gators posted a 13-1 win over the Bulldogs.
Barco (10-2) earned the win for the Gators with the complete-game performance, firing seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits while striking out two. Although it came in the form of a seven-inning gem, the outing marked Barco's first collegiate complete game as the southpaw set a new career high in innings pitched for a single appearance.
Mississippi State starting pitcher Brandon Smith was saddled with the loss, lasting just two innings and surrendering six earned runs on eight hits and two walks with one strikeout.
- Florida posted a new season-high 18 hits in the victory, marking the most knocks the Gators have put together in one game since April 23, 2019 against Florida Atlantic (21).
- With the win, Barco improves to 7-0 across his last nine starts dating back to April 3 against Ole Miss. He has not lost a start since March 28 at South Carolina.
- Armstrong and Thompson both set new career highs in RBI for a single game, driving in four and three runs, respectively.
- Rivera finished 4-for-5 at the plate to turn in a new career high with four hits.
- Young tied his season high with three RBI.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
Opening statement on the round-two victory...
"I think it was probably our most-complete game that we played in a while, obviously. Offensively, every starter got a hit. Kris Armstrong had a really big at-bat in the second. Jud [Fabian], I thought, was seeing the ball really well today. Sterlin Thompson had really good at-bats. Josh Rivera had four hits. We got production from everybody up and down the lineup. I thought we played pretty good defense for the most part. Hunter Barco was outstanding against a really good lineup."
On Barco's success on short rest and Mississippi State's aggressive approach...
"Yeah, they were aggressive. We knew that going in. Obviously, we hadn't had a chance to play Mississippi State this year, but those two guys at the top of the order kind of make them go. I thought Hunter made some really good pitches in the first, and I thought the slider that was hit into right-center gap by Allen was a really good pitch. He made an in-game adjustment and started throwing some fastballs on the inner-half of those lefties. Left-handed hitters, I thought he did a really nice job.
On Florida's offensive approach in round two and whether being aggressive was a point of focus...
"No, I think it was just -- you know, baseball's a game of momentum. We kind of got on a roll early, and some guys were feeling really good about their swings. I'm just really pleased with how we played the last two days because obviously, it could have went one of two directions after the weekend at Arkansas. We faced some really good arms today from Mississippi State, and our guys were just having really quality, competitive at-bats, and hopefully we can continue this momentum into tomorrow."
Florida advances to take on the winner of today's game between No. 2-seed Tennessee and 10th-seeded Alabama on Thursday, May 27 at 5:30 p.m. ET with coverage on SEC Network. Fans can also tune in on radio via WRUF 850 AM/98.1 FM in Gainesville, 1010XL in Jacksonville and on any mobile device via the TuneIn app (search for the "Florida Baseball" station).