STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Two defensive miscues by No. 2 Kentucky led to four Mississippi State runs and a 4-3 win over the Wildcats in the second game of the three-game series to secure the series win, on Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
Kentucky (41-14, 18-11 Southeastern Conference) dropped a fly ball in shallow leftfield in the second inning that allowed a tying run to score and allowed a routine grounder to skid under its glove that led to a two-out, three-run inning in the bottom of the fourth for the difference.
The Wildcats have been paced throughout the year by its .974 fielding percentage, which entering Friday would tie the school record for the best defensive team in the 107-year history of the program. Beside the four total defensive miscues by the Wildcats, UK leftfielder Brian Adams skied over the leftfield wall to rob a three-run homer late in the game.
The loss, combined with the doubleheader split between LSU and South Carolina puts the Wildcats a half-game behind South Carolina in the SEC Title race and in a three-way tie with Florida and LSU with the three clubs owning an 18-11 record. The Gamecocks benefit from a rain out last weekend in the finale at Georgia, erasing the Wildcats edge in the tie breaker after its sweep over South Carolina. For Kentucky to win or share the SEC Title, LSU needs to beat South Carolina in the finale.
The Wildcats got seven hits in the game, lead by a two-hit game from Michael Williams, including a RBI double off the top of the batter's eye. UK also got hits from Austin Cousino, Luke Maile, Cameron Flynn, Thomas McCarthy and Matt Reida.
UK starter Jerad Grundy (4-3) worked 4.2 innings, allowing four hits and four runs, walking four and striking out five. Alex Phillips took over for Grundy, working two innings and allowing two hits and striking out two. Tim Peterson took over in the bottom of the seventh inning, getting out of a jam and working 1.1 innings without allowing a run.
Mississippi State (33-21, 15-14 SEC) starter Kendall Graveman worked 3.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, striking out two. Nick Routt (3-6) took over for Graveman with two outs and a runner at third base in the top of the fourth inning, getting one out, allowing two hits and one walk, striking out one. Luis Pollorena then replaced him with runners at the corners and no outs in the top of the fifth inning, working a total of two shutout innings, not allowing a runner with two strikeouts. Caleb Reed replaced him with a 3-2 count in the seventh inning, tossing a shutout inning to set it up for Ross Mitchell in the eighth inning, with Mitchell tossing a shutout eighth inning. Jonathan Holder tossed the ninth inning to secure his sixth save of the year.
The series will conclude on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET at Dudy Noble Field. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, available live on WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky, on WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (8-0, 2.22 ERA), with MSU yet to announced a starting pitcher.
The Wildcats got on the board first in the top of the first inning as Cousino doubled off the wall in right-centerfield, his 19th of the year. After a sacrifice bunt from Adams and a pop out from Maile, Williams cranked a double off the batters eye in centerfield, scoring Cousino and give UK a 1-0 lead.
MSU evened up the game in the bottom of the second inning, as Mitch Slauter hung a shallow fly ball down the leftfield line. Adams tracked it but overran the play, trying a basket catch for the out. The ball bounced out of his glove and behind him, allowing Slauter to run all the way to third base, with Reida running all the way from shortstop to track the ball down. Brent Brownlee then singled up the middle to score Slauter.
UK plated a run in the top of the fourth for a one-run lead, as Flynn singled into the gap to lead off and McCarthy singled to rightfield. After a sacrifice bunt from McConkey, Reida grounded out for an RBI to give UK a lead.
MSU struck for three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Slauter drew a full-count walk to lead off and Brownlee replaced him at first on a fielder's choice. Grundy got Rea swinging for the second out and then Front hit a rolled to second base that went under Riddle's glove, with it ruled as a hit. Daryl Norris then crushed a 2-1 offering off the light tower in leftfield for his first homer of the year.
In the top of the fifth inning, UK rallied as Maile led off with a double off the wall in rightfield and Williams smashed a single to rightfield. Riddle then smoked a liner into centerfield to score Maile and cut the lead to 4-3.