Cats drop first SEC series in Starkville


Catcher Luke Becker slides into home safely during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Cliff Hagan Stadium in , Ky. on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Photo by | Staff.

Chris Angolia

For the first time since the opening week of the season in February, UK baseball has dropped a weekend series. The Cats lost its first SEC series in Starkville this past weekend to Mississippi State after dropping the final two games of the series.

Much like UK, the Bulldogs came in playing good baseball, having swept their last two conference matchups and continuing that hot play against the Cats, despite their best efforts.

Game one of the series saw UK put together a furious ninth inning rally to break a 2-2 tie between the two teams. Junior outfielder Zach Reks ripped a two-out, two-run triple and then scored on a passed ball which gave the Cats a 5-2 victory in game one of the series.

UK also had strong performances from Sean Hjelle who went 6.1 innings allowing just two runs (one earned) and three hits, and reliever Logan Salow who went 1.2 innings to close it out and pick up the victory for the Cats.

In Saturday’s game two matchup, Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker was a one man wrecking crew against UK pitching, going 4-4 with three home runs and six RBI which was as many runs as UK scored. And even though the Cats had an early 3-0 lead and Tristan Pompey had a 3-5 day with a homer and two RBI, Rooker and the Bulldogs’ offense were too much.

For the first time all year, junior Zach Logue struggled on the mound for the Cats in game two. MSU tagged Logue for seven runs and 10 hits over 5.2 innings of work, but even with the rough outing, Logue’s ERA is still sub-4 at 3.22.

Sunday’s rubber game between two of the hottest teams in the SEC was yet again another impressive display by the Bulldogs offense.

The Cats jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, but MSU’s pitching quieted UK’s bats for the most part and opened the door for the Bulldogs to score nine unanswered runs and grab a 10-4 lead. UK did its best to mount a late comeback after Luke Becker hit a two-run homer in the eighth, but could not get any closer.

The 10-6 loss on Sunday handed the Cats their first conference series loss, and after a 1-3 week, brought the teams’ record to 22-11 and 8-4 in the conference. However, UK remains atop the SEC East standings with an 8-4 conference record and is tied for the overall conference lead with that record. For the first time since early in the year, UK showed signs of a struggle, but nonetheless they are still among one of the nation’s best teams.

The Cats are back in action on Wednesday when they host UT Martin at 6:30 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.