The eighth-ranked University of Kentucky baseball team scored three runs in the ninth inning, including two on a triple by Zach Reks, to defeat No. 19 Mississippi State in front of 9,256 fans at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Miss., on Friday night.
Kentucky improved to 22-9 overall and maintained its lead in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division at 8-2. The Wildcats and Bulldogs meet Saturday night at 7 in the second of their three games in Starkville this weekend. UK improved to 4-0 on the road in the SEC for the first time since 1949.
Logan Salow snuffed out a Mississippi State threat in the bottom of the eighth, retiring a pair of batters with the go-ahead runs on second and third, and the Cats rallied with three runs in the ninth. Connor Heady drew a one-out walk — his third consecutive free pass of the night — and Tristan Pompey also walked to set up Reks’ heroics. The senior outfielder stroked a line drive to center field that squirted all the way to the wall, driving in both Heady and Pompey. Reks then slid under the tag on a passed ball for the final run.
Pompey, who also walked three times, and Heady also figured in UK’s first two runs Friday.
Pompey drove in Kentucky’s first run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth that tied the score at 1. Heady drew a two-out walk, then scored on a Pompey single in the seventh for a 2-1 Kentucky lead.
Kentucky starting pitcher Sean Hjelle allowed one earned run in 6 1/3 innings, an unlucky inside-the-park home run when Reks slipped on a sprinkler head along the left-field line. Hjelle retired 10 straight from the first through the fourth innings and worked around errors in both the fifth and sixth innings. Zach Pop got the Cats out of the seventh, and the combination of Colton Cleary and Salow escaped the eighth unscathed before Salow closed out the game with a perfect ninth.
▪ Junior first baseman Evan White went 1-for-3 with two walks and owns an eight-game hit streak.
▪ White now has 180 career hits, good for 18th place on UK’s career hits list.
▪ Pompey has hit safely in 18 of his past 20 games.
▪ Reks’ ninth-inning triple was his seventh game-winning RBI of the season and ninth of his career. No other UK player has more than two this season.
Kentucky at Mississippi State
When: 7 p.m. EDT
Radio: WLAP-AM 630