The Mississippi State Bulldogs take the field today looking to sweep the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats.
Daryl Norris and MSU got 2/3 of the way there after notching a 4-3 victory on Friday night to move into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Southeastern Conference.
The Bulldogs trailed 2-1 as Norris stepped to the plate in the fourth inning and hit his first career home run.The towering long ball cleared the left field fence by 30 feet giving MSU the 4-2 lead, a lead it wouldn’t surrender.
“I was a little surprised with it being the first one I’ve hit,” Norris said with a laugh. “When I hit it, I didn’t know what to do, but it did feel good to hit something hard.”
The third baseman of the Bulldogs was 1-for-3 for the game with three RBI coming off the go-ahead shot.
The evening began with a standoff between the two clubs following the National Anthem. The time between the completion of the anthem and the first pitch, roughly seven minutes, neither team was willing to leave the sideline standing at attention. As the player’s took the field the remainder of both teams still stood at attention, both groups receiving warnings from home plate umpire Jack Cox.
Finally, the team relented with MSU’s Nick Flair being the last man standing.
Needless to say those few moments lead to a rather spirited contest between the Dogs and Cats.
“That’s a little bit more than having fun," MSU baseball coach John Cohen said. "We want to win at everything we do. This group is always competing and I just love that about them.”
Kentucky wasted no time getting on the board as the rode the energy from the pregame into their first at-bat and with a pair of doubles took a 1-0 lead in the first.
State answered with a run in the second when Mitch Slauter opened the frame with a blooper to left the resulted in a triple. Senior Brent Brownlee drove a ball up the middle to tie the game at 1-1.
The game remained tied until the Wildcats picked up a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt in the fourth to regain the lead 2-0.
That’s when the Bulldogs took the lead for good with the home run from Norris.
From that point, MSU did what it does best and that's pitch the baseball.
Kendall Graveman was lifted in the fourth after surrendering two runs on five hits. The junior faced 18 batters and got just two ground balls, which is not his style. He gave way to Nick Routt who ended the UK threat in the fourth inning by getting a strikeout of Brian Adams.
Routt was chased from the game in the fifth after allowing a run on two hits, but from that point on State was lights out.
Over the final five innings, the Wildcats had just a single runner reach base thanks to the combined efforts of Pollorena, Caleb Reed, Ross Mitchell, and closer Jonathan Holder.
“I feel bad for Kendall because we had to get him quickly,” Cohen said.
With the game on the line and a decision to make, Cohen turned to pitching coach Butch Thompson for advice.
“When we got to the ninth, Butch said we need to go with Jonathan because he’s our hottest guy,” said Cohen. “I don’t care if they go left or right, however they matchup with us. He’s our hottest guy and just feels it.”
For the night, the Bulldogs collected four runs off of nine hits and were led by sophomore Adam Frazier who was 2-for-4 for the game.
The regular season finale takes place this afternoon at Dudy Noble field with a first pitch slated for 2 p.m.