#8 Kentucky needed only three hits on Friday night to take down #22 Mississippi State 5-2 in Starkville. The Cats used nine walks to put guys in scoring position and break through late against the Bulldogs. Tied at two, Zach Reks delivered in the ninth with a two-out, two-RBI triple to give UK the lead. The Cats sit at 22-9 (8-2) on the season.
Mississippi State worked out of their first jam of the night in the top of the first as Evan White’s double was wasted. Jake Mangum and the Dogs came to work in the bottom of the first inning. Mangum doubled and came around to score on a passed ball to give MSU a 1-0 lead. Konnor Pilkington kept the powerful UK offense at bay through four innings. The Cats didn’t get their second hit of the day until the seventh inning, but they used small ball to tie the game in the fifth.
Marcus Carson was hit by a pitch to open the inning, and White and Connor Heady were walked to load the bases. Tristan Pompey got his first of two RBIs with a sac fly to score Carson and tie the game at one.
Pompey paced UK’s offense on Friday night. The sophomore right fielder drove in two runs and walked three times in the two-hole spot. Pompey’s second RBI of the night gave UK a 2-1 lead in the seventh. Heady and White both walked with two outs to bring Pompey to the plate. After a pitching change, Pompey delivered with an RBI single to center.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) April 8, 2017
UK seemed to have all the momentum headed into the bottom of the seventh. MSU would not go away without a fight. The Bulldogs got a break when Reks rolled his ankle chasing after a fly ball in left. The ball dropped and Cody Brown came all the way around for an inside-the-park home run to tie the game. UK starter Sean Hjelle exited after 6.1 innings and a runner at first. Zach Pop came on and wiggled his way out of big time jam in the seventh to keep the game tied.
The UK bullpen was able to get out of two tough situations in the last three innings. Logan Salow entered the bottom of the eighth with two runners in scoring position and one out. Salow, a D1 Midseason All-American, got Brown to pop up and Elijah MacNamee to strike out to end the threat.
Walks and free passes were UK’s path to success on Friday. Heady walked for the third time to start the ninth before advancing to second on a wild pitch. After Pompey was walked, Reks delivered his biggest hit of the season. With Spencer Price on the hill, Reks roped a triple into the gap in right to score two runs. Reks would score on a wild pitch to give UK a 5-2 lead in the ninth.
Salow finished off the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to wrap up a 5-2 win for Kentucky over the Dogs on Friday.
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) April 8, 2017
Cats look more disciplined than ever- Nine walks is absolutely insane. UK had a great approach from everyone in their lineup and it showed tonight. Despite only collecting three hits, the Cats found a way to win using the mistakes of MSU.
Sean Hjelle throws another good game- Hjelle has been excellent in three of the four SEC series this year. Tonight, Hjelle went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs (one earned), on three hits, three walks while striking out four.
Salow is the closer- End the debate, the Cats have a closer. Salow has been fantastic midway through the season. Salow has allowed one run in 23.1 innings in 2017.
Mingione wins in return to Starkville- In the battle of Kentucky coaches, Mingione took game one over Gary Henderson. In his first game against his former school, Mingione got a 5-2 win.