HOOVER, Ala. - A tough started proved too much for the third-ranked Mississippi State baseball team to overcome.
Top-ranked Florida used a four-run second inning to build a four-run lead and then cruised to a 12-2, seven-inning win over MSU on the fourth day of the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday night at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
MSU, the regular-season champion of the conference and the top seed in the tournament, wrapped up a 1-2 ledger at the Met. The Bulldogs will now await their postseason plans.
The NCAA will unveil regional hosts at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The complete 64-team NCAA field, as well as the eight national seeds, will be unveiled at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
MSU completed the tournament at 41-16-1 overall. Fourth-seeded Florida improves to 46-12 and will face fifth-seeded LSU (42-17) in Saturday's semifinal round.
Florida built a 5-1 lead with its four-run second inning. The Gators ran the lead to 11-2 after a four-run sixth inning and brought the run rule into effect an inning later.
Austin Sexton (7-3) drew the start for MSU and was lifted with one out in the fifth inning. Sexton allowed 11 hits and seven runs (six earned), with three strikeouts and a walk. The Bulldogs then got some more arms some work as Paul Young, Kale Breaux, Keegan James and Konnor Pilkington also pitched.
The Bulldogs tied things at 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Nathaniel Lowe and Gavin Collins.
Florida grabbed the 5-1 lead in large part to RBI-singles by Nelson Maldonado, Buddy Reed and JJ Schwarz.
Down 7-1 in the fifth inning, the Bulldogs had one more threat. Jake Mangum reached as a hit batsman and Jack Kruger doubled. A ground ball out by Lowe brought home the Bulldogs' final run.
MSU finished with seven hits but committed three errors. Lowe had multiple hits for the Bulldogs.
Schwarz had four of Florida's 12 hits. Reed, Deacon Liput and Danny Reyes also had multiple hits for the Gators. Alex Faedo (12-1) threw a complete game as the Bulldogs and Gators are now even at two wins apiece in this season's series.