Diamond Dogs Complete Sweep Of No. 2 Kentucky With 11-3 Win
The Bulldogs completed a series sweep of the Wildcats for the first time in 2001. MSU last completed the regular season with a sweep in 2004 when the Maroon and White beat Alabama three times in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The victory allowed the Bulldogs to nail down the No. 7 seed in next week's SEC Tournament. MSU will face No. 6 seed Arkansas in a first-round game of the 10-team tournament at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. Ole Miss and Kentucky will meet at 9:30 a.m. CT Tuesday morning, with MSU and Arkansas starting 30 minutes after that contest is completed.
The morning session of the tournament's opening round will be broadcast by SportSouth. For fans not in the SEC region, the games may also be viewed online at ESPN3.COM (subject to blackout). Complete tournament coverage may be found at RoadBeginsInHoover.com, the SEC's official tournament home page.
With the victory, the Bulldogs complete the regular season at 34-21 overall and 16-14 in the Western Division. MSU finished in a two-way tie with Arkansas for second place in the Western Division and a three-way tie with Vanderbilt and Arkansas for fifth place in the overall standings. By virtue of the league's tie-breakers, the Bulldogs drew the seventh seed.
For one, MSU head coach John Cohen is excited about the postseason.
"I'd like to think we can get on a roll and our kids are really confident, they should be," Cohen said. "These kids really have the grind it out mentality that we ask of them. Everything that we've asked them to do, these kids have done to the highest level."
The 16 conference wins mark the most for the ballclub since a 17-12 conference finish in 2003. The Bulldogs finish with a 28-8 ledger at Dudy Noble Field, which last happened when the 1997 squad finished with 28 home wins. The Bulldogs win five league series and compiled an 11-4 finish in the last 15 games, which is the best stretch to close a season since 1989.
"I feel like we can compete with anybody in the country," Cohen said. "The whole thing is trying to get on a roll in tournament play."
The Bulldogs were on a roll Saturday, pounding out 14 hits - their best hit total in league play this season. Sam Frost had three hits. Adam Frazier, Hunter Renfroe, Trey Porter, Demarcus Henderson and Wes Rea each had multiple hits. Frost had has second three-hit game, while Frazier had his 25th multi-hit game. Henderson had a career-high three RBIs.
"I just told myself that with guys being able to freeze me with curveballs and something inside that I wasn't going to get beat that way," Henderson said. "If anything my goal was simply to put the ball in play."
The Bulldogs erased a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the fourth inning and five scores in the fifth inning - their best run-scoring inning in league play this season. UK ace Corey Littrell (8-1) was lifted in the fifth inning and took his first loss.
The unsung hero for the Bulldogs may have been Jacob Lindgren. In relief of starter Evan Mitchell, Lindgren (2-2) threw 5.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run, with seven strikeouts.
MSU tied the game on a bunt single by Henderson. Rea then slapped the go-ahead single. Henderson also had the big blow an inning later with a two-run single. Two UK errors also aided the cause.
Kentucky finishes the regular season at 41-15 overall and 18-12 in league play. The Wildcats lost the Eastern Division crown to South Carolina and the overall league title to LSU by being swept for the first time this season. Kentucky earned the fourth seed for its first-round matchup with Ole Miss.
A two-run single by Frazier highlighted MSU's three-run seventh inning.
"We've been making adjustments and things are about to turn around for us," MSU catcher Mitch Slauter said. "I honestly felt like that everything we hit all week was hard. Even when they didn't fall, it was well-struck and you could leave that at-bat with confidence."