LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mississippi State hit five home runs but still dropped a 9-8 decision to 10th-ranked Kentucky Sunday afternoon in Southeastern Conference baseball action at UK's Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky won the final two games to take the weekend conference series, two games to one. The 10th-ranked Wildcats are now 25-5 overall and 7-5 in league play. The Bulldogs are now 14-17 and 3-9.
Connor Powers hit three home runs Sunday – tying the school record and becoming the second Bulldog to homer three times in a game this season. Jason Nappi accomplished that feat in a 24-10 win at UAB. Ryan Collins and Tyler Moore also hit home runs for the Bulldogs.
Defensively MSU was not as strong. The Bulldogs made three errors, including two outfield misplays. Kentucky had five unearned runs in the contest. A dropped fly ball in left field allowed the Wildcats to plate two scores, breaking a 7-7 tie with two outs in the eighth inning.
The Bulldogs struck first Sunday, scoring three times in the first inning. Grant Hogue opened the inning with a double. Nappi later lined an RBI-single before Powers hit a two-run home run – the only MSU round-tripper greater than a solo shot in the game.
Kentucky scored single runs in the second and third innings. MSU then expanded the lead to 6-2 with three more scores in the sixth inning. In that at-bat, Powers, Collins and Moore all hit solo home runs.
Kentucky scored a lone run in the fifth inning and then erased a 6-3 deficit by scoring four times in the home half of the sixth inning. In that frame, Chris McClendon had a critical two-out single. However that hit was misplayed in right field and UK scored twice to grab a 7-6 lead.
Powers' third home run tied the game 7-7 in the top half of the eighth inning. In the bottom of that inning, John Lalor entered in relief of Michael Bubsy. He appeared to have worked the Bulldogs out of that inning but the dropped fly ball in left field allowed UK to plate the eventual game-winning runs.
MSU's finally rally in the ninth inning saw Russ Sneed walk and then Nick Hardy and Tyler Moore followed with back-to-back hits. The Bulldogs could not extend the inning, strading a pair of base runners in their final at-bat.
Ricky Bowen started for the Bulldogs. Bowen worked 5-1/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs (four earned), with three strikeouts and a walk. Michael Busby (0-1) took the loss, pitching 2-1/3 innings and allowing three unearned runs. Lalor faced two batters – getting an out one at-bat after the fly ball in left field.
The Bulldogs finished with 11 hits. Powers had four hits and four RBI, while Moore had two hits and two RBI.
The Wildcats finished with 12 hits. Marcus Nidiffer and McClendon each had three hits to pace Kentucky's offensive attack.
Winning pitcher James Paxton (3-0) threw 3-1/3 innings of late relief to earn the win. Paxton allowed two hits and two runs (both earned), with five strikeouts and no walks. Greg Dombrowski started for the Wildcats and was chased during the MSU three-run fifth inning, having allowed the first two of the three home runs that inning. Paxton followed Dombrowski in relief. Andrew Albers, Aaron Lovett and Tyler Howe all pitched in the ninth inning, with Howe getting the final out for his second save.
MSU retuns to non-conference play Tuesday night with a road trip to Memphis. The Bulldogs and Tigers play at 6:30 p.m. at AutoZone Park. Southeastern Conference play resumes next Friday, when MSU hosts Vanderbilt in the opening game of a three-game series at Dudy Noble Field. The Bulldogs and Commodores play at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.