Gators bite State with late win
By By Austin Bishop/EMG Regional Sports Director
May 4, 2002
STARKVILLE Apparently you can come home again.
Mississippi State University head baseball coach Ron Polk has proven it by coming back to direct the Bulldog baseball program.
Former MSU head coach Pat McMahon seconded that motion on Friday night, as his new team the University of Florida Gators scored the last five runs of the game to take a 5-4 Southeastern Conference win at Dudy Noble Field Polk-Dement Stadium before an announced crowd of 3,887.
The Bulldogs took advantage of shoddy defensive play by the Gators, ranked No. 10 in the nation, early to take a 4-0 lead after three innings of play.
But Florida bounced back for three runs in the fourth and one in the fifth to tie the game.
After UF tied the game in the top of the fifth, neither team would score again until Mark Kiger delivered a two-out single through the infield to score Ben Harrison from third in the top of the ninth.
MSU threatened in the bottom of the ninth when Matthew Brinson led off the inning with a double off the left fielder's glove. Steve Gendron's ground out to second moved Brinson to third.
Florida closer Kevin Coleman then came in to retire Jason Burkley on a one-pitch pop out and pitch hitter Jon Mungle on a ground out to short to pick up his fifth save of the season.
The game-ending routine grounder up the middle to Kiger at shortstop almost turned into Florida's fifth error of the game. The ball slipped off his hand and first baseman Ryan Shealy had to make a diving catch up the first baseline and then tag Mungle as he raced to first base and Brinson headed to home with the potential tying run.
The Gators had made only 28 errors in 21 SEC games coming into Friday night's game, but had obvious trouble against the Bulldogs. Not only did UF make four errors, but the Gators allowed a foul ball to drop between two players and almost turned a couple more routine grounders into errors, before nipping the runner at first.
The importance of Shealy's play wasn't lost on McMahon.
Although he suffered his second loss of the season, Paul Maholm (8-2) had a strong outing on the mound.
He struck out eight and allowed 10 hits while going the distance for the fourth time this season. The only inning he really struggled in was the fourth, when he allowed three earned runs on a walk, three singles and a double.
Florida's Bartelt (5-1)was nearly unsolvable after coming in for starter Jimmy Ramshaw with two outs and runners on first and third in the bottom of the third.
Bartelt allowed just two hits and struck out four without allowing a walk in 5.2 innings.
The win pushes Florida to 14-8 in SEC play and 33-13 overall, while MSU falls to 11-10 and 27-17-1. The two teams face off again today at 3 p.m. and then Sunday at 1:30 p.m.