Brown, Seven-Run Second Leads UK to Series-Opening Win
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Zack Brown worked into the eighth inning and allowed just one earned run, Ka'ai Tom collected three hits and Kyle Barrett drilled his first home run of the year, leading Kentucky to a 10-2 series-opening win over No. 20 Mississippi State, on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (14-7, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) posted the win in the series opener behind a balanced offensive attack that collected 13 hits, including extra-base hits from Barrett, Evan White, JaVon Shelby, Storm Wilson and Zach Arnold, and a dominating pitching effort from Brown. UK's offense plated seven runs in the second inning to take a commanding lead, before getting a solo homer from Barrett and a second run in the eighth inning for the final margin.
The win now gives Kentucky four consecutive vs. Mississippi State in the series, tying the longest streak in series history. UK, which won the last two games of a series in 2013 and a 12-inning meeting in the 2014 SEC Tournament, won four consecutive games from 1987-88. UK has now won five of the last seven games in the series with the Bulldogs and will be seeking its second consecutive series win over MSU on Saturday.
A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown (2-2) worked 7.1 innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run, walking five and striking out four. Brown allowed an unearned run to fall in a hole in the second inning, surrendering a solo homer to Wes Rea in the third inning for the damage. Brown worked around several jams in the game, inducing three key double plays to escape potential damage.
UK collected 14 hits in the game, also getting knocks from Marcus Carson, Thomas Bernal and Connor Heady, with Riley Mahan hanging a sacrifice fly. Tom finished 3-for-5 with two RBI, stealing his sixth base of the year.
The eight-run win for the Wildcats was their second over a top-20 ranked team in 2015 and the record 56th win over a ranked foe in the Gary Henderson era. Henderson's club has sprung 50 wins over top-20 ranked teams in the last seven years.
Mississippi State (17-7, 1-3 SEC) starter Preston Brown (3-1) worked 1.2 innings, allowing five hits and six runs, walking one and striking out one. With two outs and a runner on first base in the second inning, MSU turned to veteran southpaw Ross Mitchell in relief, who allowed a hit and a run before escaping the frame. Freshman sidearm righty Levi Mintz started the third inning in relief, working 2.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run. Trent Waddell tossed 2.2 innings, with Dakota Hudson working the final inning.
The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ with Dick Gabriel, Jeff Piecoro and Keith Madison voicing the action. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on Fox Sports Radio 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Mississippi State took an early lead after a hit, walk and two errors led to an unearned run in the top of the second. Reid Humphreys led off with a ground ball to the right side, with it going as an error. After a pair of groundouts, John Holland forced home Humphreys after hitting a grounder up the middle that went as an error.
UK answered in the bottom of the second, starting with a leadoff double from Wilson, who took third on a single from Bernal. Mahan then scored Wilson with a hard-hit liner to leftfield that went as a sacrifice fly. Arnold then doubled down the leftfield line and Heady was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out for Barrett, who worked a five-pitch walk to force in Bernal for a 2-1 lead. With White at the plate, each runner moved up a base, allowing Arnold to score, on a wild pitch for a two-run advantage. After a strikeout of White, Tom pulled a two-out, two-RBI single through the right side, chasing Brown from the mound.
Wes Rea got a run back with two outs in the top of the third inning, smoking a 2-1 offering from Brown over the left-centerfield fence for his second homer of the year.
The Wildcats rallied again in the bottom of the fourth inning, with Tom reaching on a bad-hop, one-out single to second base. After he stole second base standing up, Shelby pulled his fourth double of the year down the leftfield line, scoring Tom.
Barrett gave UK a seven-run lead to leadoff the bottom of the eighth inning, spanking his first homer of the year over the 30-foot wall in rightfield. White then ripped a double into the gap, scoring on Carson's RBI single with one out.