LEXINGTON, Ky. - Senior outfielder Alice O'Brien went 3-for-4 at the plate, hitting two home runs, including a leadoff, game-winning blast in the bottom of the 10th inning, to give the No. 21 University of Kentucky softball team a thrilling 5-4 extra-inning win over Mississippi State in the series opener Friday night at the UK Softball Complex in Lexington, Ky.
After true freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th inning to keep the game tied, O'Brien took matters into her own hands, blasting a leadoff homer well over the right-centerfield wall. The game-winning roundtripper was her second of the game and third of the season.
Overall, O'Brien had a career game at the dish, tying her career-high with three hits and three runs batted in, while it was the second two home run game of her career. O'Brien's two-homer game ties the most homers in a game in school history, marking the 20th time it has happened for the Wildcats. The native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., is now hitting .284 (21-for-74) on the season with five doubles, three homers, 21 RBI and a .473 slugging percentage.
Kentucky (21-8, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) is now 4-1 in extra-innings games this season and 5-2 in one-run games. The victory is the first series-opening win of the year for UK, who has fallen in its previous two series openers.
Mississippi State (20-7, 1-3 SEC) posted a four-run first inning to take advantage of the game early, but the Wildcats responded in the bottom of the opening frame with two runs to cut the lead in half. O'Brien then delivered her first homer of the game in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 4-4. The score would remain tied until O'Brien ended the game in the 10th.
Nunley earned the win in the game, throwing the final nine innings, scattering six hits with no runs scored and eight strikeouts. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., is now 13-3 on the year with a 2.03 earned-run average. Cumbess started the game, allowing four runs - only one earned - in the top of the first. Cumbess did not get a decision in the game.
The Bulldogs started junior Alison Owen in the circle, who went four innings, allowing four runs - all earned - on seven hits with seven strikeouts. Owen was relived in the fifth inning by senior Stephanie Becker, who threw the final five innings to receive the tough-luck loss. Becker was impressive, allowing only four hits and one run with seven strikeouts.
Offensively, MSU was paced by a pair of two-run homers in the first inning from junior Sam Lenahan and senior Jessica Cooley. Senior Shelby Fisher went 4-for-5 in the game.
The game started with UK committing the first of four errors on the night. After Cumbess got a groundout for the first out of the inning, Lenaham hit a towering home run just fair down the leftfield line, giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. After another UK error, Cooley made UK pay again, hitting a homer to leftfield to make it 4-0.
UK answered in the bottom of the inning, starting a two-out rally. After back-to-back strikeouts to start the frame, Joiner singled down the leftfield line, advancing to third when O'Brien hit a bloop double to leftfield. Carroll then stepped up and hit a soft floater that dropped into left-centerfield, cutting the MSU lead to 4-2.
O'Brien tied the game in the third with a towering home run to right-centerfield. Stokes started the inning with a leadoff walk, advancing all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt. A few pitches later, O'Brien tied the game with her homer.
The series will continue with 1 p.m. ET start times Saturday and Sunday. Sunday's game will be televised live on Fox Sports South as part of the SEC regional TV package. It will also be available online at ESPN3.com. Admission to both games is free of charge. Saturday and Sunday will be Little League Day at the complex as all little league coaches and players are invited to wear their team uniforms. The entire UK team will also sign autographs following both games.
Mississippi State still leads the all-time series 27-17 while the all-time record is 11-11 in games played in Lexington. UK is 9-6 against Mississippi State under head coach Rachel Lawson, including a 7-0 mark in Lexington.
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Records: Kentucky 21-8, 3-4 SEC Mississippi State 20-7, 1-3 SEC
Schedule: Friday, March 22 - Kentucky def. Mississippi State 5-4 (10) Saturday, March 23 - Kentucky vs. Mississippi State - 1 p.m. ET Sunday, March 24 - Kentucky vs. Mississippi State - 1 p.m. ET - TV: Fox Sports South
Ticket Information: Admission to all three games vs. Mississippi State is free of charge due to the continued construction of the new UK Softball Complex. The new stadium is nearly completed, but until construction in the seating areas is fully complete, admission to games will be free of charge. Fans can contact the UK Ticket Office with any questions prior to attending a game at 1-800-928-2287.
Promotions: Saturday and Sunday will be Little League Day at the complex as all little league coaches and players are invited to wear their team uniforms. The entire UK team will also sign autographs following the games on Saturday and Sunday.