Starting up the second half of a four-match Southeastern Conference road trip, the 21st-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-7, 2-3 SEC) fell in a tightly-contested 4-2 match at No. 15 Kentucky (11-4, 4-0) on Friday.
The SEC road battle was moved indoors at the four-court Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex due to high winds plaguing the outdoor courts.
The doubles point again proved to be crucial, as Kentucky took the early 1-0 advantage with wins on courts two and three. UK's Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez defeated MSU's tandem of Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid 8-2 at the two spot to begin play. The Wildcats clinched the point with an 8-4 victory on court three from their No. 76 duo of Nils Ellefsen and Ryuji Hirooka against State's Rishab Agarwal and Zach White.
Play on court one was suspended at the clinch, with UK's No. 26 team of Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai leading MSU's 40th-ranked squad of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp 7-6, with the match on serve.
Singles play began with the top four spots going first. UK increased its lead to 2-0 after the 10th-ranked Jomby defeated No. 91 Stropp of MSU 6-0, 6-4 on court one. State answered back with an impressive straight-sets win from Angus, as he defeated the Wildcats' Jerry Lopez 6-2, 6-4 on court four.
Continuing the back-and-forth trend, UK fired back with a 6-1, 7-5 victory at the three position from No. 67 Pennington against State's White. The win gave Kentucky a 3-1 lead and put them a point away from victory.
All eyes then shifted to courts two, five and six, where the Bulldogs would need wins in all three to take the match. The MSU freshman Lakat, ranked 69th, earned a hard-fought, three-set victory at the No. 2 position, as he defeated UK's Gomez 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5 to pull the Bulldogs within one at 3-2.
However, the Wildcats would put away the victory with the next match to finish, taking a 6-3, 7-5 decision on court five from Grant Roberts against State's Agarwal. Play on court six was suspended at the clinch, with MSU's Schmid up a set and break against UK's Hirooka 6-4, 4-2.
The Maroon and White will close out their four-match road swing this Sunday, March 16, against No. 23 Vanderbilt in Nashville. The match is slated to begin at 12 p.m. CT.
For the second straight match, the Mississippi State women's tennis team gave itself a chance to pick up a big Southeastern Conference win on Friday, but this time came up just short, falling in a 4-3 heartbreaker to No. 24 Kentucky at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
With the loss, the Bulldogs fell to 9-6 overall and 1-4 in SEC play. Kentucky improved to 14-3 and 4-1. MSU will be back in action on Sunday, as they wrap up their four-match homestand against No. 11 Vanderbilt at 1 p.m. Live stats will be available at hailstate.com.
On Friday against UK, the 40th-ranked MSU duo of Alexandra Perper and Naomi Tran began doubles play by earning their third SEC win on court 1, taking a solid 8-5 decision over UK's No. 56 Caitlin McGraw and CeCe Witten. The Wildcats would respond with an 8-4 win on court 3 over Ferancova and Georgiana Patrasc, and would later claim the doubles point, as State's Rosie Dion and Timea Guibe fell in a tough 8-7(5) tiebreaker to Nadia Ravita and Aldila Sutjiadi at No. 2.
Despite the close loss in doubles, State came out firing in singles and put significant pressure on UK by claiming the first set in three matches. In fact, the Bulldogs would claim all three of those contests to take a 3-1 lead in the match.
MSU's Tran would begin the scoring in singles by earning an impressive 6-3, 6-2 win over McGraw on court 6. The Bulldogs would then take 1 2-1 lead when No. 65 Patrasc earned her third dual match win over a ranked opponent, defeating No. 54 Nadia Ravita 6-2, 6-4 on court 1. The State freshman Guibe then earned her second straight SEC victory, taking her match in convincing fashion on No. 4, 6-2, 6-2 over Edmee Morin.
But UK would eventually pull out the three matches where it held one-set leads to claim the win. Sutjiadi held off MSU's Perper 6-3, 7-5 on court 2 and State's Dion fell 6-4, 6-3 to Dieters on No. 3 to make the score 3-3. And despite her best efforts for a comeback, MSU's Petra Ferancova then fell 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in a hard-fought affair to UK's Kirsten Lewis at No. 5 in the deciding match.
"It was an exciting college match," said head coach Daryl Greenan. "I think it was a match we should have won. We can take some positives away from the close loss against such a strong team, but we need to learn quickly from our mistakes or else we will just keep coming close."
A leadoff home run from Alex Hugo in the bottom of the fifth inning was enough for No. 15/17 Georgia to top Mississippi State 1-0 in the opener of the three-game series on Friday night at Jack Turner Stadium. MSU put the tying run on second base in the top of the seventh inning but could not even the score. Georgia improves to 23-2 and 1-0 in Southeastern Conference action while MSU dips to 21-6, 1-3 in the SEC.
Freshman Mackenzie Toler led the Mississippi State offense with a career-high-tying two hits.
Senior Alison Owen (10-5) suffered the tough-luck loss for MSU, allowing five hits and one run while fanning five. She hit one and threw one wild pitch. Georgia's Chelsea Wilkinson (13-2) went the distance, yielding just three hits and one walk. She struck out 14, the most whiffs by Mississippi State this season.
In the first inning, each team had a one-out base runner as MSU junior Julia Echols drew a walk and Georgia's Paige Wilson singled to right field. Wilkinson struck out the next two Mississippi State batters and Owen got out of trouble with an inning-ending double play.
Neither team had another threat until the top of the third, when Mississippi State tallied its first hit. After a strikeout, senior Jessica Offutt singled to right field. Following the frame's second strikeout, Echols reached on a Wilkinson fielding error. A third whiff ended the threat.
Both squads went quietly until the top of the fifth when MSU put its leadoff batter on but could not score. Toler led off with a single up the middle over Wilkinson's head. Sophomore Loryn Nichols entered to pinch run at first and, after a strikeout, stole second base. A fly out advanced Nichols to third, but a foul out to deep left field left Nichols on third.
After the defensive hold, Georgia's Hugo hit the second pitch of the bottom of the fifth over the wall and just inside the left-field foul pole to put UGA ahead 1-0. Kaylee Puailoa followed with a single to center and moved to second on a wild pitch. Niaja Griffin entered to pinch run. After a strikeout, Griffin moved to third on a fly out to center field. Owen avoided further damage with a strikeout.
Georgia had one more scoring chance in the bottom of the sixth but was held off the board. Samantha LaZear led off with an infield single and, after a foul out, Wilson was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one down. Owen recovered with a lineout and pop out to strand the pair.
Wilkinson retired the first two MSU batters in the seventh before Toler doubled to left center. Wilkinson bounced back with a strikeout to end the contest.
With rain in the forecast for Sunday, Mississippi State and No. 15/17 Georgia will now play a Saturday doubleheader to complete the series. First pitch for game one will be remain at 1 p.m. CT, followed by the second contest at approximately 3:30.
Track and Field
Four members of the Mississippi State track and field team saw action on day one of the NCAA Indoor Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center as the Bulldogs posted performances within the top-6 of their respective events.
Senior Marcus Jackson entered the meet ranked second nationally in the high jump and cleared 7-06.00 to tie his personal best and finish third in the event on Friday. This marked the Carrollton, Miss., native's third-straight appearance at NCAA Indoors, after finishing runner-up in last year's competition (7-06.00).
"Our kids showed a lot of focus and determination right out the gate today," MSU coach Steve Dudley said.
Also in the field, senior Rochelle Farquharson, 2014 Southeastern Conference long jump champion, posted a leap of 20-09.25 to finish fourth. Just behind her teammate, junior Erica Bougard landed a spot in sixth with a season-best jump of 20-05.25.
To close out the day for MSU, sophomore Brandon McBride clocked a 1:48.71 in the 800-meter run prelims to garner a second-place finish. His speed will advance him to tomorrow's event finals, which are slated for 8:20 p.m.
Still to come, Bougard seeks to defend her national title in Saturday's pentathlon competition, and senior Jason Harper will compete in the men's triple jump.
"Tomorrow is another big day for us," Dudley said. "I know we are ready to come out again and show off our talents. I'm excited for our athletes to continue today's success."
The MSU women enter the final day tied for seventh overall with eight points, while the men are tied for ninth with six points.
Women's pentathlon action is set to begin at noon on Saturday, and the triple jump will be underway at 7 p.m.
On pace to pick up the 16th Top 10 of his career, senior Chad Ramey finished Friday's opening round of the Seminole Intercollegiate tied for sixth.
Ramey (1-under-par 71) put together a stellar day on the course, shooting for at least par on 17 of the 18 holes at Southwood. With that performance, the Fulton, Miss., native is only two shots behind tourney-leader Trey Rule of Mercer.
Propelled by Ramey's play, Mississippi State (9-over-par 297) finished Friday in seventh place. The Bulldogs are 15 strokes behind first-place Mercer, but only four shots back of another Top-5 card.
"We didn't get off to the start we were looking for," Bulldog head coach Clay Homan said. "Our ball striking was more than good enough to post a respectable score, but we threw away too many shots on and around the greens. This course rewards good short game and today we weren't close. Tomorrow we play 36 holes, so we need to play at a higher level from start to finish."
Due to the threat of rain in the Tallahassee area on Sunday, the third round of the Seminole Intercollegiate will be played on Saturday afternoon. The final 36 holes will begin with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. CT.
Sophomore Ben Wood (1-over-par 73) moved into a tie for 19th overall on Friday, the Florence, Ala., native is seeking his sixth Top-25 card of the season.
The trio of Barrett Edens (t41st), Ben Follett-Smith (t51st) and Joe Sakulpolphaisan (t54th) were only separated by one stroke each during the opening round. The three Bulldogs finished 4, 5 and 6-over-par respectively.
Homan's squad will tee off at 8:30 a.m. CT, for a shotgun start. The Bulldogs will be vying for their second Top 5 of the spring.