The University of Kentucky Wildcats rode into Starkville this past weekend hungry for some wins against a reeling Mississippi State University team that just got swept by the the the No. 1 team in the nation according to Baseball America— The University of Arkansas Razorbacks.
This past weekend was not the best for the Bulldogs in terms of plate production, but junior utility player Luke Hancock and the rest of the team still managed to route the Wildcats in a weekend sweep.
On Thursday, MSU would ride the golden arm of SEC pitcher of the week and MSU junior Christian MacLeod to a shutout through six innings of mound work. MSU went into the eighth inning with a 4-1 lead due to some excellent sac-fly work from Hancock. Freshman outfielder Breyland Skinner would score off of an error by the Kentucky shortstop, making the score 5-1. Sophomore Kamren James blew the lead wide open for MSU with a base-clearing double, scoring three more runs and setting the score at 8-1, which would subsequently be the final score after a short top of the ninth.
After the game, MSU Head Coach Chris Lemonis described the atmosphere of the locker room after the Arkansas series.
"We talked about what it's like to take a punch ... I told the guys, 'We're going to learn a lot about you (in this series)' ... and that it will define us as a team," Lemonis said.
On Friday, MSU's pitching staff brought their A-game yet again. Sophomore righty and Valencia, Pennsylvania, product Will Bednar had his highly touted slider working to full effect, totaling ten strikeouts through six innings of play, only giving up a two-run homer in the fourth frame to set the score at 2-0 before the bottom of the sixth. Luke Hancock would yet again get the Bulldogs rolling with his sacrifice work at the plate to tie up the game at 2-2. MSU then managed to score one more run in the bottom of the eighth to set the score at 3-2, and sophomore closer and Cumming, Georgia, native Landon Sims would keep the Wildcats at bay to give MSU the series-clinching win.
In Saturday's action, MSU finally woke up the bats and found the long ball consistently. With a little help from nature, the Bulldogs would score early due to several Kentucky players losing numerous fly balls in the sunlight. In the second inning, Luke Hancock would cap off his big weekend with a rocket of a home run, traveling 429 feet. MSU ended the second with a 3-1 lead and not look back. In the fourth, sophomore catcher Logan Tanner popped off a solo homer that appeared to land in his hometown of Lucedale, Mississippi. The hit set the score at 4-1 and would be the last run of the game for MSU. Behind an RBI double and a threatening top of the eighth inning, Kentucky rallied back to make it a one-run ball game. Saturday's hero, Parker Stinnett, the right-handed junior and Oxford, Mississippi, native, would come in to pitch in relief in the ninth and close out the game for MSU. The Bulldogs secured the sweep on cleaning day with a 4-3 victory, and seemed to gain some momentum in the process.
"It's fun to watch them bounce back ... that (Kentucky) team is going to win a lot of games this year," Coach Lemonis said.
Logan Tanner was pleased with the bounce-back as well.
"It feels really good ... and we responded this week with some good wins," Tanner said.
MSU looks to keep this momentum rolling in some midweek action against Southern University on Tuesday before going on to face Auburn this weekend in their second SEC away series.