By School reports
Mississippi State takes series from Kentucky with 4-3 victory
MSU Media Relations
STARKVILLE, Miss. – A three-run home run by Daryl Norris provided the margin of victory Friday night as Mississippi State knocked off No. 2 Kentucky 4-3 in an intense Southeastern Conference baseball game played at Dudy Noble Field.
With the victory, the Bulldogs clinched their first series from the Wildcats since 2007. MSU completes the regular season with five league series wins, each coming during the final seven weeks of the campaign. The Bulldogs now have five wins against Top 10 opponents this season.
Entering the final day of the SEC regular season, the Bulldogs are in a two-way tie with Arkansas for second place in the Western Division and a three-way tie for fifth place with Vanderbilt and Arkansas in the overall league standings. The win guarantees MSU a .500-or-better season inside league play for the first time since a 15-13 conference finish in 2007.
“I can’t say enough about what the Bulldog Nation did tonight,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “They made noise and they showed up knowing what was at stake. Our kids love it and appreciate it because it means so much for us. It was a tournament type atmosphere and I love our fans for coming out and making it that way.”
The Dudy Noble Field crowd of 4,116 roared its approval when Norris cranked his first Bulldog home run off the light pole in the Left Field Lounge area. The mammoth shot placed the hosts on top 4-2 in the home half of the fourth inning.
From there, the MSU relief corps nailed the contest down. After UK climbed within a run in the fifth inning, the Wildcats managed one base runner over their final four at-bats. MSU pitching retired 15 of the final 16 batters faced in the contest.
“I was a little surprised,” Norris said. “It was the first of my career so I honestly had no idea what to do when I hit it. It felt so good to hit something hard after I’ve been struggling for so long.”
MSU starting pitcher Kendall Graveman was lifted in the fourth inning after the Wildcats grabbed a 2-1 lead. Nick Routt got the final out of that inning but was lifted after back-to-back hits to start the fifth inning. Luis Pollorena (4-0) retired six of seven batters faced to get the win. Caleb Reed worked a perfect seventh inning. Ross Mitchell worked a perfect eighth inning. Jonathan Holder worked a perfect ninth inning for his sixth save.
Holder, a true freshman right-hander, has not allowed a run in 22.2 innings of work this season.
“You can make moves when you have the personnel to be able to do it,” Cohen said. “With our pitching staff, we feel like we have the personnel to be able to do it. These guys make the decisions easy for you because they come in and get the job done. They work their tails off in practice.”
MSU finished with nine hits, including Adam Frazier’s 24th multi-hit game of the season. A watch to Mitch Slauter and single by Sam Frost preceded Norris’ blast.
Kentucky finished with seven hits. Michael Williams had two hits for the Wildcats. UK starter Jerad Grundy (4-3) was lifted in the fifth inning and took the loss.
In the pregame, seniors Reed and Brent Brownlee were honored, as well as managers G.T. McCullough and Tim Statz.
The Bulldogs and Wildcats close the regular season with a 2 p.m. start Saturday.
Rebels fall in Game Two at Vanderbilt
Ole Miss Media Relations
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the second straight night a Rebel pitcher tossed a gem in the start, but the offense couldn’t get things going as No. 22 Ole Miss (34-21, 14-15 SEC) fell to Vanderbilt (28-25, 15-14 SEC) by a score of 6-2.
Mike Mayers (4-3) allowed one run on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts through 6.0 innings of work. He took the loss after leaving the game with no score, but a man on first with no outs in the sixth. That run went on to score, tagging him with the loss on the night.
Drew VerHagen (5-2) picked up the relief win, entering the game in the seventh inning with one out and working 0.2 innings as he allowed a walk and got two outs to get Vanderbilt out of the seventh inning. The Commodores took the lead in the bottom half of the seventh to give him the win.
“It was a tough game for us,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “We played great the first six innings, but they got the two hits in the seventh and it opened up the flood gates a bit. It’s about confidence and you could see once they scored, it kept coming. We didn’t get the timely hit early, but if we had it might have been a different outcome with the way Mike (Mayers) pitched.”
Vanderbilt got on the board first, breaking up the pitcher’s duel in the seventh inning with a single up the middle from Spencer Navin. Back-to-back singles from Anthony Gomez and Conrad Gregor put men at the corners with no outs before the Navin single drove in the first run.
Riley Reynolds then lay down a bunt single to score Gregor from third and put men at first and second with the Commodores up 2-0. Vanderbilt executed a double steal, but a throwing error on the attempt to put out the lead runner sailed into left field, allowing a third run to score. Ole Miss fielded the ball in left on the play and threw to second to try to get the trailing runner, but that throw also sailed wide to the fence down the right field line and allowed Reynolds to go to third base on the play.
Reynolds then scored on a single from Vince Conde to make it 4-0 before the Rebels would get out of the inning.
Ole Miss got on the board in the top of the eighth when Sikes Orvis came up with an RBI double to right center to drive in Zach Kirksey from first, but the one run was all the Rebels would get in the inning to make it 4-1.
Vanderbilt responded in the bottom half of the inning, getting a two-out single to right from Navin with two men in scoring position to take the lead out to 6-1 in favor of the Commodores.
Ole Miss got a second run in the ninth when Matt Snyder came up with a single to right with two men on and two outs, but the Rebels got nothing more as Vanderbilt claimed the series with the win.
The two teams will play the series with the regular-season finale at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Hawkins Field.
Read more in Saturday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.