Cats and Dogs Split in Doubleheader at Cliff Hagan Stadium
March 23, 2002
The University of Kentucky baseball team opened its new $4.2 million Cliff Hagan Stadium with a split in a doubleheader with Mississippi State on Saturday, March 23. The Bulldogs (11-7-1, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) won the opener, 4-2, and the Wildcats (11-11, 2-3 SEC) answered with an 8-7 come-from-behind victory in the second game of the three-game weekend series.
"In game one, I felt Joseph Blanton pitched well enough to win," Coach Keith Madison said. "But we did not support him offensively and defensively. No matter how good you are, if you do not get support in those areas, you are not going to win."
Junior right-hander Joseph Blanton (3-2), named the SEC's Pitcher of the Week two weeks ago, suffered his first loss since losing a 4-0 decision at Texas A&M on Feb. 22. Mississippi State got to Blanton early, taking advantage of a UK fielding error in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. MSU sophomore southpaw Paul Maholm (4-1) cruised past the Cats in the first three innings, allowing only one hit. The Dogs increased their lead to 3-0 when shortstop Matthew Maniscalco ripped a leadoff single and was brought home by a Matthew Brinson home run in the third.
UK managed two runs off Maholm who pitched his second-consecutive complete game. Second baseman Brad Pickrell singled to right and left fielder Caleb Stewart reached on an error by third baseman Brent Lewis in the fourth. Right fielder Gordon Tyler then slapped a double down the left field line, scoring Pickrell and Stewart to shave MSU's lead to 3-2.
MSU put another run across in the sixth, while UK never threatened Maholm again to fall 4-2 in its SEC home opener.
In the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, the Wildcats clawed back from a five-run deficit behind two Seth Morris home runs to defeat Mississippi State, 8-7, and clinch their first win at the newly constructed Cliff Hagan Stadium.
"In the second game, we really started off sluggish offensively again which I think was a carry over from last weekend," Madison said. "I felt our confidence level was a bit low from a hitting standpoint, but Seth Morris' three-run homer really sparked us. You could see the confidence level raise in the dugout. Our guys showed a lot of courage and competitiveness coming from five runs down to beat very good Mississippi State ball club."
Frehsman lefty Craig Snipp earned his fifth start of the season and lasted 4.1 innings in a no-decision outing. Carrying a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Madison unleashed his offensive arsenal as Stewart singled to center and Morris cracked the first of his two homers on the day, scoring Spencer Graeter and Stewart to close the gap to two runs. Graeter picked a fine time to launch his first round-tripper of the season as the Louisville, Ky. native, hit the long ball to left, scoring shortstop Russ Rutherford and Pickrell who nailed back-to-back singles off MSU right-hander Chris Young in Cats' half of the sixth.
Senior left-hander Bryan Felkel (2-0) relieved Rob Corrado in the seventh and chalked up his second win of the season, allowing one run on two hits and fanning four in 2.1 innings. At the plate, the Cats could not be caged, as Morris broke a 6-6 tie when he took a fastball from MSU righty Jonathan Papelbon (1-2) deep over the wall in left center, giving the Cats a lead they would not relinquish.
Kentucky and Mississippi State will play the rubber match of the three-game series on Sunday, March 24. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Madison will send junior right-hander Scott Wade (3-3, 5.00 ERA, 31 K) to the mound, while MSU coach Ron Polk will challenge with junior lefty Joey Collums (1-1, 3.13 ERA, 23 K).
Game 1 Mississippi State 102 001 000 - 4 8 2 Kentucky 000 200 000 - 2 4 3 Win: Maholm (4-1) Loss: Blanton (3-2) Time: 2:18 Attendance: 378