STARKVILLE, ,Miss. -- Sophomore second baseman Chris Bisson’s two-RBI triple in the top of the 11th-inning completed a dramatic comeback that saw Kentucky plate runs in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 11th innings to secure a Southeastern Conference series-opener over Mississippi State 5-4, in front of a MSU season-high 6,926 fans at Dudy Noble Field.
Bisson’s triple with one out in the 11th-inning scored Chad Wright and Andy Burns, and broke open a 3-3 game, giving UK its eighth win in the last 12 meetings between the two schools. Bisson, a native of Orleans, Ontario, charted his sixth consecutive multi-hit game, going 3-for-6 with three RBI. Bisson also gave UK a short-lived lead with a two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth, before a two-out MSU run in the bottom of the frame forced extra innings.
Kentucky (20-16, 5-11 SEC) got outstanding pitching performances from starter James Paxton and freshman reliever Braden Kapteyn. Paxton, rated Wednesday as the 24th-best player available in the 2009 MLB Draft by Baseball America, tossed seven innings, allowing two runs and six hits, striking out nine. With the game on the line and the MSU go-ahead run at second base and one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Kapteyn (3-0) entered and shut down the Bulldog offense, tossing the final 3.2 innings, allowing two runs and striking out five to pick up his third win of the year and his second in a week, after notching a win at rival Louisville Tuesday. Kapteyn’s 3.2 innings and five strikeouts marked a career-high for the 6-foot-4, 215-pound freshman two-way player.
UK has now won twice in extra frames in 2009, each time winning 5-4 in 11 innings, including a win at New Orleans, using a solo homer from Chris Wade for the difference against the Privateers.
Entering the seventh inning, Mississippi State starting pitcher Tyler Whitney had held the UK bats in check, with the Bulldogs holding a 2-0 lead. UK got a run in the seventh on an RBI fielder’s choice and freshman third baseman Andy Burns tied the game with a solo homer in the top of the eighth inning, his fifth jack of the year.
With the game tied at 2-2, UK rallied to plate the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning, getting a clutch RBI single up the middle from Bisson with two runners on base, but before Wright could score from second base on Bisson’s single, Burns was nabbed in the back door at second base, ending the inning but allowing the go-ahead run to score in the form of Bryan Rose.
In the bottom of the ninth inning and down to its last strike with slugger Conner Powers at the plate, Mississippi State got an RBI single down the left-field line from Powers, who went down in the zone to drive in the game-tying run in the form of pitch hitter Luke Adkins, who had drawn a one-out walk.
After a scoreless 10th-inning for both clubs, UK mounted the game-winning rally in the top of the 11th. After a hard-hit line-out from Rose, Wright ripped a hard-hit single to the hole between the third baseman and the shortstop, beating the throw for an infield single. Burns moved Wright into scoring position with a single through the left side, bringing the hero from the ninth inning, Bisson, to the plate with the go-ahead runners on base and one out. Bisson delivered, cranking his first career triple to the wall in the right-center field gap, with Wright and a hustling Burns scoring.
The Bulldogs would not go without a fight, as they plated a run in the bottom of the 11th, as Adkins doubled down the left-field line, just under the glove of McClendon, guarding the line at third base. With two out, lead-off man Grant Hogue scored Adkins with a single through the left side of the infield. Kapteyn got the final out of the game, striking out pinch hitter Jason Nappi to end the game.
Bisson was one of four multi-hit games for the Wildcats, as Wright, Burns and Keenan Wiley joined him in charting multiple hits. Catcher Marcus Nidiffer and outfielder Bryan Rose each contributed hits, with Rose tallying an RBI. First baseman Gunner Glad drew two walks on the day, with Wright and Chris McClendon each working walks. The top of the UK order combined to go 7-for-17 in the game, with a walk and one strikeout.
MSU reliever Lee Swindle (1-2) took the loss, allowing four hits and two runs in two innings. Whitney pitched his best game of the year, going seven innings with five hits allowed, two runs, striking out five.
The series will resume Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Dudy Noble Field. UK will send senior southpaw Chris Rusin to the mound to face off with MSU freshman lefty Nick Routt. The game can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
Mississippi State (19-19, 5-11 SEC) got on the board first with two runs on two hits in the second inning. Russ Sneed led off, working ahead in the count and bouncing a chopper to third, able to beat the throw from McClendon for an infield single. Paxton immediately walked the next hitter, catcher Scott DeLoach, and second baseman Jet Butler laid down a sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position. With Nick Hardy at the plate and with Paxton ahead in the count, UK’s lefty uncorked a breaking ball in the dirt for a wild pitch, allowing Sneed to score and DeLoach to move to third. Shortstop Ryan Powers drove in the second run with a single through the left side, his 20th RBI of the year.
Kentucky narrowed the MSU lead to 2-1 with a run in the top of the seventh. McClendon led off getting hit by a pitch, moving to second on a sacrifice bunt from Wade. Wiley kept the frame alive with a single into left field and Nidiffer loaded the bases getting plunked by a pitch. Rose followed and notched the RBI with a fielder’s choice – with Nidiffer out on the play after the MSU shortstop bobbled the ball. Wright followed and with the game-tying run at third base and two out, sent a 3-2 offering from Whitney into the hole between the first and second baseman. Wright raced out of the left-handed batter’s box and slid head first into first base, attempting to beat the throw for an RBI and the game-tying run, but first base umpire Dennis McCombs ruled that Wright did not beat the throw.
UK answered with a game-tying run in the top of the eighth, as Burns, UK’s freshman third sacker, got a 2-0 offering from Whitney and belted his fifth homer of the year, a line-drive shot over the left-field fence.
In the eighth inning, Nidiffer belted his fourth double of the year with one out, with Rose getting plunked by a pitch and Wright singling down the line to load the bags. Burns hit a grounder to third base and MSU got Nidiffer at home with the force out, brining up Bisson with the bases loaded. Bisson singled up the middle, allowing Rose to score, but seconds before Wright could touch home, Burns was nabbed off second base on a cut-off throw from the outfield.
MSU got the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning, getting some good luck with two out and two strikes. After striking out the first hitter, Kapteyn walked Adkins and hit Hogue with a pitch. Kapteyn battled back and got Cody Freeman to strikeout, bringing Conner Powers to the plate, MSU’s leading hitter. Kapteyn battled and got a 1-2 count on Powers, throwing a low inside pitch that Powers was able to send down the left-field line to score the game-tying run.