SEC Tournament a mixed bag for Kentucky

HOOVER, Ala. -- The Kentucky Wildcats fell in the SEC semifinals, 2-1 to the eventual tournament champion Mississippi State Bulldogs. MSU has lost only one game in the last two weeks, a 5-2 decision to Kentucky.

The good: let's start with the starting pitching. Kentucky received 5-2/3 shutout innings from freshman A.J. Reed in Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Ole Miss. They then turned to Jared Grundy, who worked 6.0 innings, striking out a career-high nine Mississippi State Bulldogs, in route to a 5-2 victory. Finally, Saturday's semifinal game--which, this year, was single elimination, although Miss. State had already lost to Kentucky--and the Cats received a quality start from Corey Littrell, allowing only two runs in six innings, although Kentucky lost 2-1.

Equally as good was the relief pitching. In Tuesday's contest normal Friday night starter Taylor Rogers went 3.1 innings of shutout ball for the save. He repeated the relief performance by pitching 2.2 innings of shutout ball Saturday as well. Thursday's game saw Alex Phillips pick up his seventh save of the season with 3.0 innings of shutout ball in relief.

For the tournament, Kentucky held a 1.00 ERA, and allowed only 19 hits in 27 innings. They allowed no extra-base hits in the tournament, and no stolen bases.

We also saw some good hitting. A.J. Reed hit .583 for the tournament, going 7-12 with one home run. Thomas McCarthy--an SEC All-tournament selection--was also stellar at the plate.

The bad--although Kentucky gathered a number of hits, they could not seem to make the hits count. In Saturday's semifinal loss to Miss. State, Kentucky collected nine hits, but the only run scored was the solo home run from J.T. Riddle. Kentucky left nine runners on base, including six runners in scoring position without scoring any of them.

Kentucky's fundamentals were not sharp. Although the fielding in the tournament was good, mental errors still permeated their loss. Kentucky practiced sacrifice bunting extensively the day before in practice at Birmingham-Souther, but when it came time to put down a bunt, shortstop Matt Reida bunted foul two consecutive times before grounding into a forceout.

The Cats also committed a couple of baserunning errors, allowing a batted ball to strike the runner moving from 2nd to 3rd with no outs, and being thrown out at 2nd base attempting to advance on a ball in the dirt.

The 2-1 record in Hoover against three teams in the NCAA tournament field is not all bad. In fact, there was a lot of good that derived from the play in Hoover. But if Kentucky wishes to prolong its season, it will need to address the bad as well

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