STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State, ranked 29th nationally, rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to beat Kentucky 3-2 and claim the series on Sunday afternoon at Polk-Dement Stadium.
The loss drops the Wildcats to 20-19 overall and 3-14 in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs improve to 27-12 on the year and 9-8 in the league.
It is the third straight Sunday Kentucky has fallen by one run when attempting to win the series. Overall, the Wildcats are 1-4 in SEC play in one-run games and have blown leads in three games in the ninth. Of the team's 14 league losses, the Wildcats have led in nine of them, including both this weekend.
Freshman Scott Green, who had two saves and a 1.50 earned-run average as a reliever, entered with a 2-0 lead and was tagged for all three runs. He walked the leadoff batter and allowed a single to Bunky Kateon to start the inning. No outs and two walks later, one run was in and the bases were still loaded.
Jeffrey Rea drove in the tying run on a ground out to first before Thomas Berkery was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the double play. Green got the ground ball he was looking for from Brad Corley, but it squirted up the middle for a single and the game-winning RBI.
"It's a frustrating thing," Kentucky coach John Cohen said. "We've held a lead in the ninth a number of times and not gotten the win and its tough. But we're going to keep competing hard and we'll win these kinds of games in the future."
The blown save spoiled a tremendous pitching performance by freshman starter Andrew Albers. He worked 6 2/3 innings and scattered seven hits while not allowing a run. Albers struck out six and walked two in his fifth quality start (six innings or more, three runs or less) of the year. Sunday was the first time Kentucky did not win when its pitcher recorded a quality start.
Freshman Brock Baber relieved Albers with two on in the seventh and hurled 1 1/3 perfect innings to turn the lead over to Green. All three Wildcat pitchers in the game were freshmen.
"We have a very young pitching staff and out pitching coach has done an outstanding job guiding them along," Cohen said. "They're going to be good, but we have seven freshmen on our staff who travel. That's where we are right now."
Kentucky built a 2-0 lead with single runs in the fourth and sixth. Freshman Collin Cowgill was the catalyst as he walked and scored on J.P. Lowen's double in the fourth and singled home John Shelby, who reached on an error, in the sixth.
Cowgill and Lowen each had two hits on the afternoon while Antone DeJesus pounded out three, needing only a home run to hit for the cycle.
A trio of base-running errors cost Kentucky chances at adding to its lead. Cowgill was caught stealing after his RBI single and Ryan Wilkes was picked off first in the seventh. The very next batter, J.B. Schmidt, reached on a dropped pop up, but rounded the bag a little too far and was caught off first.
DeJesus made a similar mistake to Schmidt's in the first inning and was thrown behind at second base.
Each team left a small village on the bases as Kentucky and Mississippi State stranded nine and 11 runners, respectively.
Justin Pigott worked the final three innings for the Bulldogs to earn the win, his first of the year. He relieved starter Jon Crosby after six innings of work in which he allowed two runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking two.
Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday when it plays host to Kentucky State at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game kicks off a five-game home stand for the team, which also plays Marshall and has a series with Arkansas this week.
Kentucky loses game, and series
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