STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s late-inning heroics were in full effect at Dudy Noble Field on Friday night.
With the game tied with two runners in scoring position in the eighth inning, Luke Hancock walked up to the plate and hit the first pitch he saw to deep right field.
Kentucky's John Rhodes was able to get under the ball for an out, but Rowdey Jordan tagged up from third base to score the game-winning run and No. 8 Mississippi State beat Kentucky, 3-2.
The Bulldogs (19-7, 4-4 SEC) clinched the series with wins on Thursday and Friday and will try to sweep Kentucky (18-6, 5-3) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“I was just trying to hit a ball in the air,” Hancock said of his at-bat. “I knew if I just hit the ball into the outfield pretty deep that we would go ahead right there and that’s all I was trying to do.”
Will Bednar started on the mound for Mississippi State and gave up two runs, a two-run home run to Kentucky’s T.J. Collett, in six innings and struck out 10 batters.
He exited with the Bulldogs trailing 2-0, and Mississippi State quickly tied it up in the bottom of the sixth inning. Brayland Skinner and Rowdey Jordan both reached base to lead off the inning, and Tanner Allen singled to right field.
Rhodes's throw from the outfield beat Skinner to the plate, but Skinner jumped past the Kentucky catcher and evaded the tag to score and cut the lead to 2-1.
“I don’t think many people can do what he does on the base paths,” Hancock said of Skinner’s play at the plate. “He’s one of the fastest base runners I’ve ever seen. I really wasn’t surprised he did it, but I’m sure glad he did.”
Hancock then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, 2-2 in the sixth before hitting another sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to give MSU a 3-2 lead. Hancock has four sacrifice flies in the series.
With a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, MSU pitcher Landon Sims returned for a final inning of work.
He allowed a leadoff single before getting an out via a sacrifice bunt. The next batter, Kentucky’s Oraj Anu, popped up into the infield but the ball dropped between the Mississippi State’s infielders to give Kentucky runners at first and third with one out.
Sims gestured to his teammates to settle down and told them “We’re good. We got this.”
On the next pitch he threw, Chase Estep grounded the ball right back to Sims and he turned a 1-6-3 double play to end the game and clinch the series.
“It’s just the next pitch and I’m really the only one who can control the next pitch,” Sims said of the dropped pop up. “Things like that are going to happen no matter how good your team is. It’s baseball and those things happen. Being able to keep my composure on the mound has always been one of my main focuses.”