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2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
Game 10 - Kentucky 5, Mississippi State 1
HOOVER, Ala. -- Jerad Grundy worked six innings and allowed only one run while fanning a career-high nine and No. 11 Kentucky got four hits – including three doubles –from senior Thomas McCarthy to post a 5-1 win over No. 21 Mississippi State to clinch a berth in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Semifinals, in front of 6,798 on a steamy Thursday afternoon at Regions Park.
Kentucky (43-15) rode the strong pitching outings from Grundy and senior Alex Phillips, and McCarthy’s four-hit, three-double game for the 5-1 win over the Bulldogs. The win came against a red-hot Mississippi State club that entered the tilt having won 13 of its last 17 games vs. SEC foes.
UK fell behind in a 1-0 hole in the first inning as Grundy allowed three of his four hits in the game, before the southpaw settled in to dominate the bats of the Bulldogs. The Wildcats plated five unanswered runs, including two in the third, one in the fifth and two in the ninth for the win.
“I thought there were a few keys,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “One was Jerad [Grundy] finding his rhythm in the second inning. Obviously he faltered a little bit in the first. Just in terms of delivery rhythm and getting ahead, I think we had four 2-0 counts in the first inning. So for him to be able to find a rhythm and create a bit of momentum for us created a little bit more excitement in the dugout.”
With the win, UK advances to the SEC Tournament Semifinals on Saturday and will receive a bye on Friday after its 2-0 start to the tournament. In SEC Tournament modern era history (1998-present), UK’s top-four finish will mark the best finish in school annals. UK’s two SEC Tournament wins is its most since winning two games in the 1996 SEC Tournament. UK finished second in the SEC Tournament in 1981 when only four teams were invited to the field, before the SEC Tournament grew to eight teams from 1998-2011 and to a 10-team field in 2012.
Grundy (5-3) worked six strong innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking two and striking out a career-high nine. Grundy allowed three hits and one run in the first inning before settling in to allow only one single and two walks over his final five frames. Phillips, a native of Tenino, Wash., replaced him in the bottom of the seventh inning, working three hitless innings to secure the win and pick up his seventh save of the year.
“First inning, I was struggling to find my fastball,” Grundy said. “Second inning on, I found real control over my secondary stuff, my slider and my changeup. I kept it down for the most part, and that is why I was able to get the strikeouts. It is a mental approach. I have had the same first inning a couple of times throughout the season in my starts. It is something that I should address moving forward into the regionals.”
A native of Corvallis, Ore., McCarthy led UK’s 12-hit offensive charge with his career-high three doubles and four hits, plating three runs. Michael Williams added a career-high three hits, with A.J. Reed and Luke Maile each contributing two hits, with Reed notching two RBI. UK also got a hit from Cameron Flynn, with Zac Zellers and Austin Cousino getting plunked by pitches, Matt Reida drawing a walk and J.T. Riddle contributing a sacrifice fly.
“Today was a good day for me,” McCarthy said. “I finally relaxed at the plate and let it travel. I feel like it worked out for me.”
Mississippi State (36-22) starter Kendall Graveman (4-4) worked 2.1 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, not issuing a walk and striking out one. He was replaced by Luis Pollorena, who worked two innings, allowing two hits and one run, walking one. Ross Mitchell took over in the fifth inning working 1.2 shutout innings, striking out one. Ben Bracewell then worked two innings, allowing one hit, one run and one walk, striking out three. Taylor Stark got one out in the ninth inning, allowing two hits and a run, before Nick Routt got the final two outs of the frame.
The Wildcats will return to action on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at Regions Park. UK will face the winner of Friday’s elimination game between Mississippi State and LSU at 4 p.m. ET. The game will be televised live on CSS with Matt Stewart and Rusty Ensor on the call. The UK IMG Radio Network will broadcast the game live, available in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky put some pressure on the Bulldogs in their first plate appearance but weren’t able to bring in the two baserunners. With one out in the top half of the first, McCarthy doubled down the left field line. An out later and McCarthy still on second, Reed legged out a grounder deep into the six hole that would be ruled an error on the shortstop. Graveman forced a groundout to second baseman, Sam Frost, to avoid any damage in the top of the first.
Mississippi State took the lead early as Adam Frazier led off the Bulldogs with a single up the middle in the bottom half of the first. Grundy retired Brent Brownlee with a strikeout but Hunter Renfroe reached on an infield single down the third baseline. Two outs and runners on first and second, Porter lined a ball into right center to give the Bulldogs the first lead of the game, scoring Frazier and advancing Renfroe to third. Grundy left two stranded to get out of the inning but not before Mississippi State took an early 1-0 lead.
Kentucky threatened again in the top of the second, moving runners to first and second with just one out but was unable to push the runs across once again. Flynn got the Wildcats started with a one-out, line-drive single to leftfield. Zellers stepped in and reached on a hit by pitch to put runners on first and second. Reida flew out in foul territory down the leftfield line on an impressive play by Mississippi State leftfielder Demarcus Henderson, running over the steep bullpen mound that sits in foul territory in leftfield to make the catch near the wall. Graveman ended the inning with a strikeout, surrendering no runs and stranding two for the Wildcats.
After the challenging first inning, Grundy settled down and struck out the side on just 12 pitches, all three swinging.
McCarthy got the Wildcats started in the top of the third, lining a base hit up the middle. Maile followed suit with a single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw to third unsuccessfully attempting to nab McCarthy taking third, runners on second and third with no outs for Kentucky. Williams knocked Graveman out of the game with a single through the right side that scored McCarthy. Pollerena took the hill for the Bulldogs with runners on and first and third. Riddle, the first batter to face Pollerena, flew out to right field but Maile was able to tag and score from third. Riddle’s sacrifice fly gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead through three and a half.
Grundy took the hill in the bottom of the third and tallied his fourth consecutive strikeout, getting leadoff hitter Frazier swinging. Brownlee reached on a walk and Renfroe singled through the left side to put runners on first and second but Grundy fought back, recording his sixth strikeout in just eight outs and forcing a pop out to McCarthy at third left two stranded for Mississippi State.
Grundy pitched another flawless inning in the bottom of the fourth, forcing a lineout to Riddle at second for the first out of the inning. Another strikeout in the book for Grundy, sitting down Wes Rea and forcing a fly out to Cousino in center would send the game into the fifth with the Wildcats still holding onto a 2-1 lead.
McCarthy led off Kentucky in the top of the fifth with a double down the right field line, his second double of the day and third hit of the day. Maile flied out to deep center, advancing McCarthy to third with one out. Reed recorded his second RBI of the tournament with a base hit to centerfield that brought McCarthy across the plate. A base on balls for Williams put runners on first and second with just one out and brought Pollerena’s outing to an end. Mitchell took the mound for Mississippi State and quickly got out of the inning, forcing a line-drive out to Frost at second who doubled off Reed at second. Kentucky extended its lead to 3-1 as the game headed to the bottom half of the fifth.
Grundy pitched a quick bottom half of the fifth, retiring the first three batters on just 11 pitches. A leadoff line out to Riddle at second followed by a soft ground out back to Grundy retired the first two batters for Mississippi State. With two outs, Grundy struck out Brownlee for the second time of the game and his eighth strikeout on the day.
Mitchell matched Grundy in the top of the sixth, retiring the side in just 11 pitches, striking out the leadoff and forcing two infield pop outs.
For a fifth consecutive inning, Grundy retired the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the sixth. Mitch Slauter reached on a base on balls and advanced to second on a bunt from Trey Porter that McCarthy barehanded and threw over to first for the second out of the inning. Grundy struck out Henderson to end the inning and tie a season-high nine strikeouts in a game.
Cousino led off for Kentucky in the top of the seventh, reaching on a hit by pitch. Mitchell got up 1-2 on McCarthy before being replaced by Bracewell on the mound who finished off the strikeout for the first out of the inning. Mitchell struck out the remaining two batters to leave Cousino stranded and keep the Wildcats lead at 3-1.
Kentucky senior reliever Alex Phillips took over in the bottom of the seventh and forced a fly out to right field to record the first out of the inning. Nick Ammirati pinch hit for Frost and struck out looking. Phillips plunked Norris to put a runner on with two outs but a Zellers diving catch in leftfield ended the seventh inning with no runs scored.
Williams led off the top of the eighth with a single into centerfield, his second hit of the game and third time reaching base. A wild pitch advanced Williams to second before Riddle lined out on a sliding catch by Mississippi State centerfielder Renfroe. A fly out to deep left center from Flynn would allow for Williams to tag and advance to third but a ground out to second ended the inning with Williams stuck on third.
Phillips sat down the side in the bottom of the eighth, forcing a ground out to short, a fly out to center and a swinging strike out, the fourth inning of the game the Wildcats didn’t allow a runner to reach base.
Kentucky poured it on the top of the ninth, adding two insurance runs. Reida reached on a leadoff walk that would force Mississippi State to make another trip to the bullpen, bringing Stark to the mound. Following a botched bunt attempt, Reida made his way to second via a wild pitch. McCarthy knocked in Reida with his third double of the game, a tie for a SEC Tournament single-game record. Maile kept it going with a single through the left side, putting McCarthy on third with one out. Routt took over on the mound as the third Bulldog pitcher of the inning. Recording his second RBI of the game, Reed hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to bring home McCarthy. Williams singled into right center with two outs, advancing Maile to third but Williams and Maile would be stranded after a groundout to end the inning. The Wildcats extended their lead to 5-1 entering the last half inning of play.
2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
Regions Park • Hoover, Ala.
Game 10 • Thursday, May 24
(3) Kentucky 5, (7) Mississippi State 1
• Kentucky moves to 43-15 overall while Mississippi State falls to 36-22 this year. The Wildcats move into the semifinals and do not play again until Saturday at noon. They will face the winner of Friday’s elimination game between Mississippi State and LSU, slated to begin at 3 p.m.
• Kentucky’s win brings the All-Time Series to 56-33 in favor of Mississippi State and ties the SEC Tournament series at three apiece. It is also the Wildcats first win over the Bulldogs after being swept on the final weekend of the regular season.
• Kentucky is now 31-1 when leading after four innings and 38-0 when leading after seven. They also carry a 35-4 record in day games.
• The Wildcats are now one win away from tying a school record in wins, set by the 2008 team with 44.
• Kentucky held Mississippi State to four hits on the afternoon. It is only the third time this season the Bulldogs have been held to four hits or less (3/24: 3 hits vs. Arkansas, 4/29: 2 hits vs. Ole Miss).
• Mississippi State SS Adam Frazier singled on the first pitch of the first inning to increase his hitting streak to nine games and pick up his sixth hit of the SEC Tournament. Frazier brings his hit total to 82, tying him for third in the SEC with Ryan Tella of Auburn and Anthony Gomez of Vanderbilt.
• Kentucky 3B Thomas McCarthy connected with his 17th double of the season in the first followed by a single in the third to pick up his 19th multi-hit game of the season. McCarthy then came through with doubles No. 18 and 19 on the year in the fifth and ninth and brought home his 30th RBI of the year. McCarthy now has 16 multi-hit games and his first four-hit game. He also scored three runs on the day, the highest single-game total so far in the SEC Tournament.
• McCarthy is the fourth player to go for four hits in a game at the SEC Tournament, joining teammate A.J. Reed, Tyler Hanover of LSU, and Matt Snyder of Ole Miss.
• 1B Luke Maile of Kentucky extended his reached-base streak to 10 after a single in the third inning. He later added a single in the ninth to pick up his 21st multiple-hit game this season.
• Kentucky C Michael Williams picked up his 33rd RBI of the season after a single in the 1st and then added his 16th multi-hit game of the season in the eighth with a base hit.
• In the second and third inning, Kentucky SP Jerad Grundy struck out four straight batters including striking out the side in the second. He finished the game with nine strikeouts in six innings to match a career high in K’s and improve to 5-2 this season.
• Mississippi State 1B Hunter Renfroe singled in the first and third innings to pick up his 13th multi-hit game of the season.
• A walk to the Bulldogs’ OF Brent Brownlee extended his reached-base safely streak to 15.
• Kentucky DH A.J. Reed singled to center in the fifth and then hit a sac fly in the ninth for two RBIs on the day. He now has six hits to move him into a tie for most hits this week in Hoover with Frazier. His three RBIs put him in second for the week behind LSU’s Cody Snickeris.
Kentucky Head Coach Gary Henderson
“I thought there were a few keys. One was Jerad [Grundy] finding his rhythm in the second inning. Obviously he faltered a little bit in the first. Just in terms of delivery rhythm and getting ahead, I think we had four 2-0 counts in the first inning. So for him to be able to find a rhythm and create a bit of momentum for us created a little bit more excitement in the dugout. Then we had that offensive explosion in the third for two (runs). I was really glad to see that because we have been getting a lot of ones. Key hits throughout the game. It has been a while since we put 12 up. I was really glad to see that. Thomas McCarthy in the two hole was huge for us today. Luke [Maile], A.J. [Reed] and Michael [Williams] had 11 of our 12 hits. I thought we were extremely aggressive on the bases. The catch in left field by Zac [Zellers] was pivotal, if not a game turner. To be able to go to a senior like Alex Phillips and not lose anything in terms of momentum, feel, and confidence was huge. I thought that the matchup with the changeup would work and that is why I went with him instead of Trevor [Gott]. If there had been another runner in the ninth you would have seen Trevor but there wasn’t so we didn’t have to get to that point.”
On Jerad Grundy’s performance…
“It is always interesting to get the different perspectives. I feel like we address that first inning every week in practice. We don’t sit down at a whiteboard or bust out volumes of film, but we look at deliveries and talk about perspective and the ability to find rhythm early on in the contest. There are a lot of guys out there in the game of baseball where the first inning is the toughest, and he is no different. The thing as a coach that I am so proud of is that he can maintain his composure under pressure. If the pitcher has the wrong response, you could get a ball in the gap or hit the guy, and you get a real mess on your hands. He just hasn’t done that. That is why he has been so successful throughout the course of the year.”
Thomas McCarthy (Sr., 3B)
On his performance at the plate…
“Today was a good day for me. I finally relaxed at the plate and let it travel. I feel like it worked out for me.”
Michael Williams (Sr., C)
On playing Mississippi State again…
“It feels great. Going into the game our team was focused and well prepared. It is always good to get that game out of the way. I am happy for our guys and it is a real confidence boost.”
Jerad Grundy (Jr., P)
On his performance in the first inning vs. the rest of the game…
“First inning, I was struggling to find my fastball. Second inning on, I found real control over my secondary stuff, my slider and my changeup. I kept it down for the most part, and that is why I was able to get the strikeouts. It is a mental approach. I have had the same first inning a couple of times throughout the season in my starts. It is something that I should address moving forward into the regionals.”
Mississippi State Head Coach John Cohen
“I thought Kentucky really pitched well. I thought they did a nice job executing their game plan. I think the thing that they did more, we played them in a three-game set last weekend, and they swung and missed a lot more, and we were able to get a bunch of strikeouts. They did a better job, especially with runners on, of just putting balls into play and giving themselves a chance to be successful. I think they’re on a little bit of a mission today obviously. We had some pretty hotly contested games last weekend in Starkville. They wanted to desperately win this baseball game, and they did a nice job with their execution, and we didn’t. We’ve won five SEC baseball games in a row. There aren’t a lot of teams in our league that have done that this year. I’m really proud of the effort we’ve been getting. Mentally, we were a little bit tired and not as locked in as I wanted us to be today. Our mission right now is to put that in the rear view mirror and move forward and get ready to play a very good LSU team tomorrow at 3.”
On facing LSU again in tomorrow’s elimination game…
“They’re good. I can’t imagine making any other comments against anybody else in this tournament. Everybody’s good. They’re a great situational club. They have experience up and down the lineup. They have experience on the mound. They’re in our league. They’re a great club. It’ll be a tremendous challenge for us. … There is no difference (among the teams in the SEC). Everybody has their strengths. That’s why it’s the best league in America, and that’s why you want to be part of it. You better bring it every day. If you don’t, somebody will embarrass you. We need to get mentally and physically rested for a very good LSU team tomorrow.”
Adam Frazier (So., SS)
On Kentucky pitcher Jerad Grundy…
“I thought he did a good job of that the first time through the order. We kind of got to him in the first inning with a couple of hits, and after the first time through, he started mixing in that cutter, slider a lot. I don’t think we made an adjustment to it. He did a good job of locating it in and out of the zone. He did a good job today.”
Hunter Renfroe (So., CF)
On facing LSU again in tomorrow’s elimination game…
“The bottom line is our pitching’s going to come through for us. We have some of the best pitchers in the NCAA. Our hitting has to come around. We have to hit some balls hard and get some gaps, and we have to move runners. That’s the bottom line.”