FINAL: Kentucky 5, MSU 1 (SEC Tournament)

HOOVER, Ala. | Recapping MSU’s 5-1 loss to Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at Regions Park on Thursday.

The buzz: Kentucky (43-15) gained its revenge at a good time, punching its ticket to Saturday’s semifinal round while dropping MSU (36-22) into an elimination game at 3 p.m. tomorrow versus LSU. UK starting pitcher Jerad Grundy (5-3) pitched a beautiful game, and he got great support from the top of Kentucky’s lineup. The Bulldogs swept UK at home last weekend, part of a five-game winning streak that was snapped with this loss.

Big inning: MSU had gone up 1-0 in the first inning, but UK scored twice in the third. Back-to-back singles led off the frame, and Michael Williams drove in a run with a single. A sac fly by J.T. Riddle gave Kentucky a 2-1 lead.

Key stats: Neither team committed an error. … MSU left six men on base, Kentucky 10. … UK was hit by a pitch twice and stole a base.

MSU at the plate: State had four hits, none after the third inning. … Hunter Renfroe had two hits. … Trey Porter knocked in MSU’s run with a two-out single in the first. … MSU struck out 11 times, 10 of them swinging.

Kentucky at the plate: Third baseman Thomas McCarthy led a 12-hit attack, going 4 of 5 with three doubles, three runs scored and an RBI. … Williams had three hits and an RBI. … Luke Maile and A.J. Reed had two hits apiece, with Reed driving in two runs.

MSU on the mound: Starter Kendall Graveman (4-4) was clearly affected by a groin injury, and he lasted only 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with a strikeout and no walks. … Reliever Luis Pollorena gave up one run on two hits in two-plus innings. … MSU used six pitchers total, none throwing longer than Graveman.

Kentucky on the mound: Grundy, who took a loss vs. MSU last weekend, masterfully mixed in off-speed pitches and curveballs. He recorded nine strikeouts – all swinging – in six innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks. … Reliever Alex Phillips worked three shutout innings to earn the save, his seventh.

Bottom line: MSU’s offense reverted to form, missing out on the few opportunities it had to get back in the game, and Grundy made them look silly at times. On the whole, the pitching effort was solid. Now it’s a rematch with LSU, the tourney’s top seed. A win there would send MSU to the semifinals. Expect right-hander Evan Mitchell (2-1, 3.52 ERA) to start on the mound for State tomorrow. LSU will throw sophomore righty Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.62).

Quotable: “He pretty much pitched same way he did last weekend, we just couldn’t do anything with it.” – Renfroe, on Grundy, who gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings vs. MSU last week