COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 16/15 Kentucky used a walk-off single from Nikki Sagermann to claim a 4-3 nine-inning victory against Mississippi State in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The Bulldogs trailed 3-0 going to the top of the sixth before freshman Katie Anne Bailey tied the contest with a bases-clearing triple. The loss eliminates the Bulldogs from the SEC Tournament.
The Wildcats (42-14) were led on offense by Christian Stokes, who drove in two runs and had three hits. The Bulldogs (38-19) were paced by Bailey’s three RBI and junior Julia Echols, who finished two-for-two with a single and double and an MSU single-game record-tying three hit by pitches.
Senior Alison Owen got the start and recorded one out, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk. She struck out one. Freshman Alexis Silkwood (13-7) entered and tossed the remaining eight innings, giving up two runs on five hits, five walks and four whiffs. Kentucky’s Kelsey Nunley (22-7) scattered six hits and eight hit by pitches in the complete-game effort. She struck out four and walked one.
The Bulldogs tried to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but had a runner thrown out at home. With one out, senior Heidi Shape was hit by a pitch. After a fielder’s choice from freshman Caroline Seitz forced Shape out at second, senior Sam Lenahan was hit by a pitch to put two runners on base. Echols followed with a single to center, but Seitz was thrown out at home to end the threat.
After the defensive hold, Kentucky took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Stokes led off with a home run. Sylver Samuel followed with a single through the left side and stole second base. She came home on a single to center from Sagermann. Owen recorded a strikeout before walking Lauren Cumbess. Silkwood entered for Owen and closed the inning with a strikeout and foul out.
The Wildcats nearly added to their lead in the bottom of the second, but a great defensive play from sophomore shortstop Kayla Winkfield left it a 2-0 deficit. After consecutive strikeouts, Stokes walked and Samuel singled up the middle. Sagermann lined a ball toward left center, but Winkfield jumped up and made the run-saving catch.
Mississippi State got its leadoff batter on in the top of the third, but could not convert. Sophomore Loryn Nichols led off with a single and moved to second on a groundout, but was left stranded by a pop out and groundout.
The Bulldogs had another runner on base in the fourth as Echols hit a one-out double, but a fly out and groundout ended the threat.
Kentucky added its third run in the bottom of the fourth to go up 3-0. Emily Jolly singled through the left side, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a two-out single to center from Stokes. A groundout closed the frame.
MSU used a two-out rally in the top of the sixth to even the game at 3-3 with Bailey’s big hit. With one out, Seitz singled through the right side and was replaced at first by junior pinch runner Ashley Phillips. After a fly out, Echols was hit by a pitch and senior Logan Foulks singled to left to load the bases. Bailey drilled a 1-0 pitch to right center that cleared the bases and evened the game. A groundout stranded Bailey on third.
Kentucky had an opportunity to regain the lead in the bottom of the sixth, but could not convert. Griffin Joiner led off with a walk and was replaced at first by pinch runner Dari Richardson. After a 13-pitch battle, Jolly grounded one to third baseman Seitz, who threw to second for the force on Richardson. A strikeout and lineout ended the frame.
The Bulldogs had two runners on with two outs in the top of the seventh, but failed to convert. With two down, Shape was hit by a pitch and Seitz reached on a throwing error, but a strikeout kept it a tie game.
After stranding a Kentucky runner in the bottom of the seventh, the teams headed to extra innings tied at 3-3.
Mississippi State put two runners on base in the top of the eighth, but failed to convert. Echols led off being hit by a pitch and Bailey drew a one-out walk. Nunley avoided damage with consecutive strikeouts.
Mississippi State loaded the bases in the top of the ninth with three hit by pitches, but a check-swing groundout ended the threat.
The Wildcats earned the win in the bottom of the ninth with Sagermann’s walk-off single. Ansley Smith walked to open the frame and Stokes hit the first pitch for a double to center. After a foul out, Sagermann singled up the middle to plate Smith.
Mississippi State will wait to learn its NCAA Tournament fate until Sunday at 9 p.m. CT with the NCAA Selection Show. The one-hour show will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
- Mississippi State scored its first runs of the season off Kentucky starter Kelsey Nunley.
- The Bulldogs were hit by eight pitches, increasing the team’s total to 82, the most in a year in program history.
- In the last two games, MSU has been hit by 13 pitches.
- The eight hit by pitches in the game are the most in a contest in program history.
- With eight HBP, the Bulldogs set the SEC Tournament single-game record, doubling the previous high.
- MSU scored five runs against Kentucky this season with freshman Katie Anne Bailey driving in four of them.
- Bailey had three runs batted in versus SEC opponents before her three-run triple in the top of the sixth.
- Bailey’s three RBI are the second most in a SEC Tournament game by an MSU player. She trails only Kasey Whitehead’s four runs batted in versus Auburn on May 12, 2000.
- Bailey’s one triple also tied the Bulldog single-game high during a league tournament contest.
- Junior Julia Echols went two-for-two during the game. In her last seven contests, Echols is hitting .579 (11-for-19) with a walk and a seven hit by pitches.
- Echols was hit by a trio of pitches to increase her season total to 14, tied for the third most in a year in program history.
- Senior Heidi Shape was hit by a pitch in the top of the first, seventh and ninth innings to increase her career total to 36 to take over sole possession of second on the MSU career chart.
- Shape’s 21 hit by pitches this season are the second most in a year in program history, just one behind Briana Bell’s 22 in 2012.
- Shape and Echols tied Shape's Mississippi State single-game record for hit by pitches in a game with three plunks.
- It was the third game this season Shape has been hit by three pitches in a contest.
- Senior Sam Lenahan was hit by a pitch in the top of the first and ninth to give her 11 HBP this year, the sixth most in a campaign in program history.
- Senior Alison Owen’s single-season strikeout total is 208, good for the third most in a year in program history.
- There have been three seasons in program history with an MSU pitcher recording 200 or more strikeouts and Owen owns two of them (2014 and 250 in 2013). Autumn Anderson (1998/246) is the only other Bulldog hurler with more than 200 whiffs in a campaign.