The Mississippi State Bulldogs closed out the regular season in impressive fashion Saturday as they throttled the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats 11-3 for the series sweep.
The Bulldogs had a three-run fourth, a five-run fifth, and a three-run seventh on their way to pounding out 14 hits and plating the 11 runs for first sweep of a ranked opponent since 2003 when State swept the Razorbacks.
“We made an adjustment and after that first time through the order, we started hitting some balls hard,” said MSU catcher Mitch Slauter. “It is like I’ve been telling you all weekend we’ve been making adjustments since the middle of the week and changing our approaches and things are about to turn around for us.”
The sweep also completed an unprecedented turnaround for MSU, finishing with a second half mark of 11-4 after opening just 5-10.
“We’re hot right now," Slauter said. "I don’t know if I’d want to play us right now."
Kentucky struck first in the third inning when they plated a pair of runs on a walk, an error and a couple of hits, taking the 2-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived because the Bulldogs answered in the fourth when Brent Brownlee reached after being struck by a pitch. After a Hunter Renfroe single, Trey Porter was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Slauter, who delivered a RBI fielder’s choice. Demarcus Henderson picked up his first of two RBI for MSU with a squeeze play that resulted in an infield single. Wes Rea continued to swing a hot bat with a single to left scoring a run and giving the Bulldogs the 3-2, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Demarcus had a huge bunt and he set it up so perfectly,” said MSU head coach John Cohen. “We practice that all the time and it is just great to see the guys execute it when it matters the most.”
The Bulldogs weren’t done as they broke the game open by plating five runs in the frame on a pair of walks, four hits, and a couple of Wildcats miscues. MSU was in a comfortable position with the 8-2 lead and turned to Jacob Lindgren to close out the game.
“I felt pretty good out there, I was just trying to help my team win,” said Lindgren, who picked up the win after throwing 5.1 innings allowing one run on just three hits. “Before the game, we scouted them out and we always have a plan for the hitters we face and I was just trying to follow the plan.”
Lindgren was on in relief of starter Evan Mitchell, who was lifted in the third after surrendering two runs on three hits.
State scored three insurance runs in the seventh inning, setting the table for senior Caleb Reid to finish the game with a solid ninth inning of work.
Six Bulldogs had multi-hit afternoons with Sam Frost leading the way with a 3-for-4 effort. Adam Frazier, Renfroe, Porter, Henderson, and Rea all added a pair of hits for a total of 14.
“I feel like the whole weekend we hit the ball hard, some went far, other’s didn’t," Henderson said. "Hopefully, they will start falling our way.”
Mississippi State travels to Hoover, Ala., for the Southeastern Conference Tournament where it will be the No. 7 seed facing the No. 6 seed Arkansas. The game time has yet to be determined but it will be the second game of opening day.