FINAL: MSU 3, No. 4 Kentucky 1 (Game 1)

Recapping MSU’s 3-1 win over No. 4 Kentucky on Thursday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The buzz: The Bulldogs (32-21, 14-14 SEC) stayed in the thick of things as far as a good SEC Tournament seed. They’re in a four-way tie for sixth overall, with Arkansas, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. This was a non-negotiable game here: Chris Stratton took the mound against a strong offensive club and got through it mostly unscathed. And the offense found some life from Wes Rea of all people; he entered the game in a 1-for-41 slump. Kentucky (41-13, 18-10) is now in a virtual tie for first in the East with South Carolina, which was rained out tonight.

Big inning: It was scoreless in the fourth when a Mitch Slauter double was sandwiched between a pair of hit-by-pitches (Trey Porter and Brent Brownlee). Then Rea stepped in and delivered a two-run single through the left side of the infield for a 2-0 lead.

Key stats: MSU was 3 of 8 with runners in scoring position, while Kentucky was 1 of 7. … Neither team committed an error. … MSU pitchers issued no walks.

MSU at the plate: Rea was 2 of 4 with the two RBIs. … Slauter was 2 of 4 with two runs scored. … MSU had eight hits. … State got its third run in the sixth when Sam Frost executed a perfect safety squeeze bunt to score Slauter.

Kentucky at the plate: Kentucky had seven hits. … Luke Maile had two hits, both doubles, and he drove in UK’s only run in the sixth. … J.T. Riddle had two hits.

MSU on the mound: Stratton (10-1) wasn’t at his best, but he was still pretty good. In 6 1/3 innings, he allowed one run on six hits, struck out eight and walked none on 82 pitches (62 strikes). … Ross Mitchell tossed 2 1/3 solid innings, allowing just one hit while fanning one. … Freshman Jonathan Holder got another save, his fifth, by facing and striking out one batter in the ninth.

Kentucky on the mound: Starter Taylor Rogers (6-4) went 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs (all earned) on five hits, striking out three and walking two on 86 pitches. … Walter Wijas faced one batter (a hit by Rea), and Sam Mahar tossed the final 2 2/3 innings, giving up two hits.

Bottom line: Slauter said after the game that the Bulldogs were tweaking their approach at the plate and believes they’ll finish the season strong there. That would be good, as it would take some pressure off the pitchers. Not that Stratton and company need a ton of run support. Kendall Graveman (4-3, 2.69) will start on the hill tomorrow for MSU.

Quotable: “Coach (Nick) Mingione gave a great speech before the game and was building up all our confidence. … He was trying to tell us to get our swag, just get our confidence. He was telling us about our high school accomplishments and what we’ve done here. I guess just trying to build us up.” – Stratton

Videos: You can CLICK HERE for Rea; CLICK HERE for Stratton; CLICK HERE for Slauter; and CLICK HERE for Cohen.