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Bulldogs falter in 12th against Kentucky

Published 10:05 am Friday, May 23, 2014

 

Mississippi State pitcher Ross Mitchell delivers during Thursday's SEC Tournament game against Kentucky. Mississippi State lost in 12 innings, 7-6. (Bill Simmonds/Mississippi State Sports Information)
Mississippi State pitcher Ross Mitchell delivers during Thursday’s SEC Tournament game against Kentucky. Mississippi State lost in 12 innings, 7-6. (Bill Simmonds/Mississippi State Sports Information)

MSU will play Florida tonight

Well after midnight, Mississippi State’s vaunted extra-inning magic finally had an expiration date.

Zach Arnold’s RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning Thursday night gave Kentucky a 7-6 win over Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

It was Mississippi State’s first loss in eight extra-inning games this season, and couldn’t have come at a worse time. It means it’ll have to turn around and play again today ­— its fourth game in four days, in a stretch that’s already included two extra-inning contests.

The Bulldogs (37-21) will face Florida in an elimination game tonight at 7.

“This is a great experience for our kids,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “It is the first game we have lost in extra innings this year. We have to protect some pitchers for next week and then hold someone to start either Friday or Saturday in this tournament. That is why we got (Jonathan) Holder out there. I really like the energy level and how we competed.”

Kentucky (35-22) got a day off and a berth in Saturday’s single-elimination semifinal round with Thursday’s victory.

It earned it.

The Wildcats came from behind three times in the game and didn’t lead until Arnold’s walk-off hit. They scored three runs in the sixth inning to wipe out a 4-1 deficit, then answered again in the eighth and ninth innings after MSU had taken the lead.

“The game was an absolute war. Mississippi State played an unbelievable game, so did us. We just kept coming at each other,” said Kentucky shortstop Matt Reida, who went 4-for-6 and scored the winning run after leading off the 12th inning with a double. “It could’ve gone either way. There was such small margin of error. It came down to a couple close calls. It seemed like everything was going our way for a little bit once it got going. It was an unbelievable feeling.”

Mississippi State took a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Gavin Collins, but for the second time in the tournament All-America closer Holder couldn’t keep the lead.

Holder gave up a leadoff double to A.J. Reed in the bottom of the ninth, then threw a wild pitch that allowed pinch-runner Marcus Carson to move to third. Ka’ai Tom hit the next pitch to center field, into the glove of MSU’s C.T. Bradford but deep enough to bring in the tying run.

The Bulldogs left runners on base in the 10th and 12th innings, and Kentucky left the bases loaded in the 11th.

The Bulldogs couldn’t dodge trouble forever, though.

Reida doubled off Preston Brown to start the bottom of the 12th, then went to third on a wild pitch. A walk and an intentional walk loaded the bases with one out.

Cohen pulled the infield in, but Arnold found the soft spot. He chopped a ground ball to deep short. Seth Heck fielded it and tried to turn the double play to keep the game alive, but Anthony Cousino beat the throw to second.

As the futile relay throw was on its way to first — Arnold also beat it out for a base hit — Reida scored the winning run. The Wildcats erupted out of the dugout in celebration as the 4 hour, 36 minute marathon reached its conclusion.

“It really comes down to a couple of plays when you’re in extra innings,” Cohen said. “I thought we put ourselves in a few pretty good positions. Positionally, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to in two sequences, but we defended it pretty good. It’s just the walks that killed us.”

SEC Tournament

Thursday

Ole Miss 7, Vanderbilt 2

Florida 7, South Carolina 2

LSU 7, Arkansas 2

Kentucky 7, Mississippi State 6

Friday

Ole Miss vs. Arkansas, 3 p.m.

Florida vs. Mississippi State, 7 p.m.