March 22, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Three errors by No. 8 Kentucky in the sixth inning led to five unearned runs and lifted No. 14 Mississippi State to an 8-4 series-opening win, on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (16-5, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) entered the top of the sixth inning having just taken a 4-2 lead after a two-run fifth. A trio of UK errors in the decisive frame led to five unearned runs as the Bulldogs rallied to take a 7-4 lead.
UK starter A.J. Reed (2-3) suffered the hard-luck loss, working into the sixth inning and exiting with a 4-2 lead. Reed worked five innings, allowing seven hits and five runs – two earned – walking three and striking out five. Right-hander Chandler Shepherd came into a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth and worked through the inning, tossing four innings in relief, allowing three hits and three runs – one earned – striking out two.
Kentucky was led offensively by multiple-hit games from Thomas Bernal, Max Kuhn and Zac Zellers, with Kuhn delivering a pair of runs and Bernal driving in two runs. Bernal set a new career high with his 3-for-4 game. UK also got hits from Kyle Barrett, Austin Cousino, A.J. Reed and Micheal Thomas, with Thomas driving in a run.
Mississippi State (21-4, 2-2 SEC) starter Jacob Lindgren worked 4.1 innings, allowing six hits and four runs, walking four and striking out six. Sidearm lefty Ross Mitchell (5-0) picked up the win with 4.2 shutout innings, allowing only four UK singles, not issuing a walk and striking out three.
The series will conclude on Saturday with a no-scheduled doubleheader, with first pitch slated for 12 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium and the finale to end the series following the first game. The first game will be televised live on Fox Sports South, with Bob Kesling and Nick Belmonte calling the action. Fans can also hear the games live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send senior southpaw Jerad Grundy (4-1, 1.93 ERA) vs. Mississippi State junior righty Evan Mitchell (0-1, 2.75 ERA). In the finale, junior southpaw Corey Littrell (3-0, 2.84 ERA) will face MSU senior righty Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.36 ERA).
Mississippi State jumped out to an early lead in the top of half of the first. All-America shortstop Adam Frazier knocked a double into right center on the first pitch of the game and advanced to third on an error playing the ball off the wall. Following a strike out, Hunter Renfroe singled up the middle to bring home Frazier and give the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs added another in the top of the fourth as Wes Rea doubled down the leftfield line with one out to start the Bulldogs off. Brett Pirtle followed Rea with a single into right center, bringing Rea home from second and increasing Mississippi State’s lead to 2-0.
Trailing 2-0, Kentucky bounced back in the bottom of the fourth with two runs to tie the contest. Max Kuhn opened the inning with a four-pitch walk, before advancing to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Thomas Bernal hit a double into right center, putting the Wildcats on the scoreboard with their first run of the day as Kuhn came across. Micheal Thomas tied the game back up, singling into leftfield to score Bernal from second and leave the game tied at 2-2 through four.
The Wildcats took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two to take a 4-2 lead. Zellers led off the inning with a single down the rightfield line, before stealing second. Kuhn knocked a one-out single up the middle to score Zellers and give Kentucky its first lead of the evening. With Riddle reaching first on a walk, Mississippi State went to the bullpen, bringing in Mitchell to face Bernal. A single through the left side scored Kuhn and increased Kentucky’s lead to 4-2 through five.
Mississippi State stormed back after surrendering the lead, scoring five runs in the top of the sixth to regain the lead. With an error and back-to-back singles to load the bases, UK was forced to bring Shepherd out of the bullpen. Shepherd struck out the first batter he faced and forced a ground ball to the next but a bad hop caused a fielding error, scoring Rea and allowing the bases to remain loaded. C.T. Bradford followed with a fly out to centerfield, as Pirtle tagged and scored to tie the game. With runners on first and second, Renfroe had an infield single to load the bases. Mitch Slauter delivered for the Bulldogs, singled into left field to bring home Norris. A throwing error from Zellers allowed Frazier and Renfroe to score and increased Mississippi State’s lead to 7-4.
A solo home run from Renfroe to lead off the top of the ninth gave the Bulldogs an additional security run.
GAME NOTES: Junior J.T. Riddle made his team-leading 87th consecutive start … UK allowed just its eighth first-inning run of 2013 … Max Kuhn’s second-inning single improved him to reaching base safely in 28 of 47 leadoff chances in 2013 … Kuhn has reached base safely in 20 of 21 games … Riddle laid down his first sac bunt of the year and the 14th of his career … Zac Zellers extended his hitting streak to four games in the third … It took Thomas Bernal 19 at bats in 2013 to strikeout for the first time … Bernal cranked his third double of the year in the fourth … Micheal Thomas singled and stole second in the fourth inning, his fourth steal of 2013 … Zellers stole his second base of 2013 … Kentucky committed a season-high four errors, with three coming in the five-run sixth … It was UK’s first four-error game since April 10, 2012 vs. Louisville … Chandler Shepherd came into a bases-loaded jam and allowed all three inherited runners to score, giving him 14 inherited runners in 2013, with six scoring … UK has inherited 53 total runners in 2013 and allowed 15 to score (28-percent) … UK fell to 3-2 when its opponent scores in the first inning and 3-4 when its opponent scores first in a game … UK dropped to 2-1 in its all-white uniforms … UK is now 3-3 in A.J. Reed’s starts in 2013 … Reed extended his hitting streak to seven games in the ninth … UK trails the all-time series with Mississippi State, 56-31, including an 18-16 mark in games played in Lexington.