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State Takes Series From #2 UK With 4-3 Victory

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Daryl Norris celebrates after his three-run homer Friday that proved the difference over the Wildcats.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

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.



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