Wildcats Defeat Bulldogs 10-9

LEXINGTON, Ky. - No. 7 Kentucky hit its 10th and 11th home runs of the weekend and clinched the 2006 SEC Eastern Division championship Sunday afternoon with a 10-9 win over No. 19 Mississippi State (33-19, 11-15 SEC) before a gathering of 1,812 at UK's Cliff Hagan Stadium. The win gave the SEC-leading Wildcats their second straight one-run win over the Bulldogs and a sweep of the three-game weekend series.

The Bulldogs out-hit Kentucky 17-10 on the afternoon. But the UKats were helped along by nine walks and three Bulldog errors as well as solo home runs by Ryan Strieby and John Shelby.

The Bulldogs claimed the game's early lead with a run-scoring double by Andy Rice. But MSU starter Chad Crosswhite, making his first career SEC start, had difficulty finding the strike zone and issued four walks during a three-run Kentucky second. Sean Lehmann singled in two runs and Strieby drew a bases-loaded walk to give Kentucky a 3-1 lead.

State answered with a three-run third inning burst when Jeffrey Rea and Edward Easley opened the inning with doubles off UK start Greg Dombrowski and Brian LaNinfa followed with a two-run home run to center field. Dombrowski gave up five runs a on eight hits and left the game after giving up a single by Rea to lead off the fifth.

Kentucky tied the game in the bottom of the third on Shelby's lead-off home run and took the lead minutes later when Bulldog shortstop Thomas Berkery misplayed Collin Cowgill's two-out ground ball, allowing two runs to score and giving UK a 6-4 lead.

The Bulldogs plated a run in the fifth and added two more in the sixth. But in each inning Kentucky answered with runs of its own, scoring twice in the fifth and once in the sixth on Strieby's 17th home run of the year. The Wildcat defense, which committed but two errors on the weekend, helped cut short MSU uprisings with double plays in both innings.

Trailing 10-7 heading into the final inning, the Bulldogs threatened to salvage the series finale. Facing UK relief ace Andrew Albers, Easley and LaNinfa singled and Mitch Moreland drew a walk to load the bases. Albers struck out Joseph Hunter but Rice followed with a two-run single to centerfield to make it a 10-9 contest. But Albers got McCaskill to pop up to first base to end the rally, the game and the series and picked up his sixth save of the year and his second in as many games.

Easley had a game-high four hits and bot Rea and Rice had two hits apiece to lead MSU. Billy Grace went 3-for-3 to lead Kentucky.

Crosswhite took the loss. He was charged with five runs (four earned) on five hits with six walks. Johnson struck out five in his 3-2/3 innings of middle relief but allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits. Aaron Weatherford and Brett Cleveland pitched the final two frames for MSU.

Chris Rusin (5-0), the second of five UK hurlers in the game, scattered five hits and allowed two runs to earn the win in relief of Dombrowski.

Mississippi State closes out its 2006 non-conference schedule Tuesday at Dudy Noble Field, taking on the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks at 6:30 p.m. MSU then hosts instate SEC rival Mississippi May 18-20 in a first-ever Thursday through Saturday series.

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