Kentucky sent the crowd of 4,303 home happy with a series-opening win over Mississippi State in the final Friday game at the Cliff. The #21 BatCats (32-17, 12-13) beat the Bulldogs 7-6 behind a four-RBI night by Tristan Pompey. The Cats jumped MSU in the SEC standings and now sit in the top seven in the conference.
Sean Hjelle did not have his best stuff on the mound, but his offense picked him up on Friday. After falling behind 4-1 in the second inning, UK clawed their way back into the game. Pompey drove in four runs on a pair of RBI doubles and the bottom of third of the order hit 6/10 as UK put up seven runs against MSU’s ace Konnor Pilkington.
The Dogs were hitting everything Hjelle threw over the plate in the first two innings. Hunter Stovall drove in the first two of his three runs in the first inning on a single that rolled past second baseman Luke Becker into right. It would only be the beginning of a big night for Stovall. The Dogs’ five-hole hitter collected five hits in a losing effort.
The Cats bounced back in the bottom of the first when Luke Heyer collected an RBI double to cut the lead to one. But the Dogs would keep up the pace from the top of the first when Rowdey Jordan drove in a pair of runs to extend the lead to 4-1.
With this UK lineup, no lead that is safe. In the bottom of the second, Pompey got the offense rolling. The junior outfielder drove in two runs with a double off the right-field wall. Pompey’s day was far from over. After Trey Dawson drove in a run to tie the game in the fourth, Pompey doubled in two runs to left to give UK their first lead of the day.
Tonight was Pompey’s first multi-RBI game since April 8th. The big inning culminated with an RBI sac fly by Kole Cottam that gave UK a 7-4 lead after four innings. The loud inning sent the big crowd into a frenzy.
The energy at the Cliff would start to slow down when Gary Henderson’s group scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. MSU has come back 15 times from early deficits, but the Cats would put them away tonight. Luke Becker drove in two runs in the bottom of the eighth to seal a 9-6 win for the BatCats.
The win improved UK’s all-time record at home against MSU to 23-20 and put them into a tie for fourth in the SEC East with Vanderbilt. The final two games at the Cliff will be huge for the direction of this team’s season. With a win tomorrow, UK could move to .500 in conference play.