LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State was the tough-luck loser in a pair Southeastern Conference baseball games Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs competed but dropped a pair of one-run games to the eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
Austin Cousino’s RBI-single in the home half of the ninth inning lifted Kentucky to a 4-3 victory in the nightcap. In the opener, senior left-hander Jerad Grundy proved too much for Bulldog hitters as Kentucky won 3-2.
With the series victory, Kentucky improved to (18-5) overall and (4-2) in league play, while MSU fell to (21-6) and (2-4). The Bulldogs have now lost twice by one run and another in extra innings in league play.
“It’s all part of the maturation process,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We had guys out there trying to do extra-ordinary things. If you do that, the game will crush you. We always talk about identity. Right now, we have 18-to-22- year-old kids trying to do something special on every play, in every at-bat.”
After winning the series opener 8-4 Friday night, the Bulldogs never led Saturday. Kentucky scored twice in the first inning of the opener and three times in the first inning of the nightcap.
In the nightcap, the Wildcats plated three runs in the first inning without a base hit, thanks to walks and hit batsman. Evan Mitchell started but gave way to Ross Mitchell after facing three batters. Ross Mitchell faced only two batters and walked in two runs.
Kentucky managed only three hits in the contest and did not score again until Cousino’s walk-off with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning.
“In the first inning, Evan can’t throw a strike,” Cohen said. “We have to have strike throwers. We have to find a third guy, who can throw strikes. You can’t give a great team on the road three runs in the first inning.
“I thought our kids really fought back and battled.”
Luis Pollorena threw 4.1 innings of one-hit shutout relief, while Chad Girodo later followed with three innings of one-hit relief. Girodo was touched for a leadoff double by Kyle Barrett. After an intentional walk and another walk to load the bases, Jonathan Holder got an out before allowing the game-winning hit.
Adam Frazier had the lone hit in MSU’s two-run third inning. The Bulldogs benefited from three walks and two Wildcat errors. In the fifth inning, a massive home run by Hunter Renfroe tied the game.
Renfroe homered in each game of the series and has now hit nine for the season. Renfroe has now hit safely in 13 straight games, while Frazier has hit in 24 of 27 games this season.
In game one, Grundy pitched eight innings of six-hit baseball. Kentucky touched MSU starter Kendall Graveman for a two-run home run by A.J. Reed in the first innings.
The Bulldogs answered with an RBI on a sacrifice fly by C.T. Bradford in the sixth inning.
Kentucky came right back with a single score in the home half of the sixth inning. Graveman was lifted in that inning but Chad Girodo and Ben Bracewell pitched shutout relief to give the Bulldogs a chance.
Renfroe hit his eighth home run of the season in the ninth inning but the Bulldogs could not get the game-tying run across the plate.
MSU hosts Austin Peay at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.