Kentucky pitcher Jerad Grundy pitched six solid innings for the victory in the Wildcats 5-1 win over Mississippi State Wednesday during day three of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament
May 24, 2012 5:37:34 PM
HOOVER, Ala. - It's almost as if Mississippi State University baseball coach John Cohen knew what would happen and just couldn't do anything to stop it.
The Bulldogs fourth-year coach had a strange fear before another game against the University of Kentucky that a loss was coming.
"Kentucky flat out scares you to death and that goes for any coach," Cohen said Thursday when evaluating his opponent. "But boy do they not want to lose four in a row to us."
Those words turned out to be prophetic as No. 24 MSU fell to the 11th-ranked Wildcats 5-1 Thursday in the third day of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament at Regions Park.
The victory marked Kentucky's first in four games against MSU (36-22) this season and stopped the Bulldogs streak of five straight victories over ranked teams in the league.
"I still think they are the best 1-through-9 (batting order) in our league," Cohen said. "We just didn't have that little spark moment to get us going and it's hard to beat a Top 10 ranked team four times in a row."
The loss for MSU is its first of the tournament as they fell one game away from a bye into the single-elimination semifinal round starting Saturday.
"There aren't a lot of teams in our league that have won five SEC baseball games in a row this season but mentally I think we were a little bit tired today," Cohen said.
Kentucky (43-15) pounded MSU starting pitcher Kendall Graveman (4-4) and sent home to the dugout for his shortest start of the 2012 season as the junior was done after just 2 1/3 innings and 55 pitches.
Kentucky grabbed the lead in the third inning with two runs. Back-to-back singles by Thomas McCarthy and Luke Mailed started the inning. After a lineout, Michael Williams hit a game-tying single.
McCarthy ended the day with his second four-hit game of the season as the third baseman finished 4-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored out of the two spot in the UK lineup. McCarthy matched an SEC Tournament record with three doubles off three different MSU pitchers (Graveman, Luis Pollorena and Taylor Stark).
"Obviously today was a good today for me and I was so happy that I finally was able to do something to help," McCarthy said.
Williams, a senior catcher, had a three-hit day against the coach who recruited him to UK in John Cohen.
""It's always good to get that game underway and to beat John Cohen," Williams said. "He recruited me here so it's kind of funny how that works out."
While the numbers would suggest Kentucky starting pitcher Jerad Grundy (5-3) was significantly better at Regions Park than in Starkville a week ago, the left-hander simply just did a better job of avoiding a disastrous mistake.
In last Friday's loss at Dudy Noble Field, Grundy gave up a three-run home run to left field off the bat of sophomore Daryl Norris to take the loss in a 4-3 defeat in the second game of the weekend sweep for the Bulldogs.
"He gave up one three-run homer and his pitch count was high so it was not efficient but he didn't pitch poorly (in Starkville)," Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. "When you play in a yard this big, it's pretty forgiving and that lets you get into your secondary stuff."
Grundy relied mostly on his changeup and slider to confuse MSU hitters through six innings where he'd only allow a run in the opening frame while tying a career-high of nine strikeouts.
"We spent an hour this morning watching film on this guy and almost situation by situation our kids knew what was going to happen exactly before it did happen," Cohen said. "It's going to be soft down in the zone and you don't chase, we won't strike out. So 11 punchouts later, that's what young guys do in this league. That's happened to us a lot this year."
The 6-7-8-9 spots in the MSU batting order went a combined 0-for-12 Thursday with six strikeouts against Wildcats pitching.
"The bottom line is our pitching is going to come through because we have some of the best pitchers in the NCAA but our hitting has to come around," MSU center fielder Hunter Renfroe said. "We have to move runners and that's it."
Sixth-seeded MSU (36-22) will face top-seeded Louisiana State University (43-15) in a 3 p.m. elimination game Friday. That rematch of the Bulldogs 3-2 victory Wednesday will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast. LSU defeated Ole Miss 11-2 in an earlier tournament elimination game Thursday.
No. 11 Kentucky (43-15) 5
No. 24 Mississippi State (36-22) 1,
W - Jerad Grundy (5-3) 6 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 9 K in 104 pitches
L - Kendall Graveman (4-4) 2.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, K in 56 pitches
S - Andy Phillips (7) 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K in 34 pitches
MVP: Kentucky 3B Thomas McCarthy (4-for-5 with 3 runs and an RBI)
Turning point: 3rd inning - Kentucky pounded out three straight hits on MSU starting pitcher Kendall Graveman to take back the lead 2-1 and knock the junior right-hander out of the game after just 2 1/3 innings.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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