DEFENSE DOOMS WILDCATS IN QUEST FOR SEC TITLE
Wildcats Suffer First Series Sweep of 2012; Return to Action in SEC Tournament
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- A series of defensive miscues allowed Mississippi State to plate eight runs over the fourth and fifth innings for an 11-3 win over No. 2 Kentucky to sweep the series and end the Wildcats hopes at winning the Southeastern Conference regular season championship, on a steamy Saturday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
Kentucky (41-15, 18-12 SEC) entered the bottom of the third inning with a two-run lead before its defense collapsed under a pair of errors. Mississippi State plated eight runs over the fourth and fifth innings. The Wildcats benefited from a LSU win at South Carolina which would have put UK as the SEC Co-Champion with a win over Mississippi State on Saturday. With UK’s loss, LSU claims the 2012 SEC regular season championship.
Despite falling in the three-game series, the Wildcats have finished the 2012 regular season with the second-most regular-season wins in program history, just behind the 42 wins the 2006 UK team took into the postseason.
The Wildcats collected seven hits in the game, including a two-hit game from Michael Williams. UK also got hits from Luke Maile, J.T. Riddle, Lucas Witt, Zac Zellers and Thomas McCarthy.
UK starter Corey Littrell (8-1) worked 4.1 innings, allowing seven hits and seven runs, walking one and striking out six. Walter Wijas took over in the fifth, not getting an out and allowing a run. Chandler Shepherd who worked 2.1 innings, allowing three hits, two runs, walking one, striking out two. Sam Mahar then came on and allowed two hits and a run without getting an out before UK turned to Trevor Gott, who got the final four outs of the game, including three strikeouts.
Mississippi State (34-21) starter Evan Mitchell worked 2.2 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, walking two and striking out four. He was replaced by Jacob Lindgren (2-2) who tossed 5.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run, striking out seven. Senior Caleb Reed came on in his final career outing at Dudy Noble Field to get the final three outs.
UK will return to action in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., at Regions Park. The field has been set but the seeding will be determined following all of the Saturday games.
The Wildcats got on the board first in the third inning, as Reida drew a four-pitch walk and Cousino reached on a fielding error that allowed Reida to motor to third base. Reida then scored on a fielder’s choice and after a pop out from Adams, Maile drew a full-count walk. After Cousino was caught stealing on a bang-bang play at third base, Maile took second on a wild pitch. Williams then scored him with a sharp singled through the left side for a 2-0 UK lead.
MSU got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Brent Brownlee was hit by a pitch to lead off and Hunter Renfroe singled through the left side. With Trey Porter squaring to bunt, he was hit on the bat and it was ruled as a hit by pitch to load the bases. Littrell then got Mitch Slauter to hit into a double play ball but the back end of play was ruled safe on a bang-bang play, allowing Brownlee to score. Demarcus Henderson then laid down a squeeze bunt with runners on the corners and two outs, with the throw to first on target but UK not covering the first base bag after directing the throw to home plate. Wes Rea then chopped a grounder through the left side, allowing Slauter to score.
The Bulldogs again took advantage of some UK defensive miscues in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Frazier singled with one out and Brownlee drew a full-count walk. Renfroe then chopped a slow roller into the hole on the left side, with it going as a two-base error and allowing Frazier to score and Brownlee to take third. Porter then singled to centerfield with two strikes to score Brownlee. Saluter then laid down a bunt that Wijas threw into right field for an error, allowing another run to score and the runners to move up a base. Demarcus Henderson then blooped a ball into shallow rightfield that allowed two runs to score for an 8-2 MSU lead.
MSU added runs in the seventh, plating a run on a bunt single with two outs and a runner on third base after an error on a single in leftfield. MSU added two more runs on a two-out, two-RBI single.
UK scored in the ninth, as Witt and Zellers singled to lead off and Bernal scored Witt with a single to leftfield.
GAME NOTES: Corey Littrell picked of his team-leading seventh of the year … Austin Cousino was caught stealing for the first time of the year … Littrell allowed the most runs of his 2012 season … UK has won the second-most games in UK baseball regular season history.