HOOVER, Ala. – A pop fly to off the bat of Kentucky's Austin Cousino found its way into the glove of Mississippi State’s Adam Frazier and that was it.
With that final play, the Bulldogs advanced to the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game.
Like most MSU wins this season, the defense was solid, the pitching was spectacular, and the offense did just enough to earn the 2-1 win over the No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats Saturday at Regions Park.
“It is all about determination,” Bulldog head coach John Cohen said. “These kids come to the ballpark every day expecting to win. Yes, we have played five games in five days against some of the best teams in the nation. We have played in the heat of the day. That’s the luck of the draw, but none of that matters to this bunch.
“The goal is simple – find a way to a win a ballgame.”
In typical Mississippi State fashion, both runs were produced via ‘small ball’ with sacrifice bunts from Brent Brownlee and Mitch Slauter in the second and third innings.
In the second, Demarcus Henderson opened the frame with a single to right center setting the table for Slauter to lay down the bunt moving Henderson to second. Wes Rea put the Bulldogs on the board with an RBI single up the middle.
Frazier set the stage in the third with a single to left, followed by a Brownlee bunt. After a Hunter Renfroe flyout to right, Frazier scored on a Trey Porter single to right.
“It is always important to get leadoff guys on," Frazier said. "When you do that and bunt them over, you have two opportunities to get them in. I thought we did a good job of that (Saturday). I thought they did too, but we did a good job minimizing on that.“
Sandwiched between State's two runs was the lone run of the afternoon by the Wildcats, a towering shot over the right field fence from J. T. Riddle.
After two and a half innings, the Bulldogs owned a 2-1 lead and simply turned the game over to a very capable pitching staff.
“With our pitching staff, we know it just takes a couple of good innings,” Frazier said. “As hitters, we have to make adjustments and find a way to put some balls in play. We did that (Saturday).”
State used a quartet of pitchers with Luis Pollorena leading the way. The left-hander earned the start and went two innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out three.
“Luis has so much heart," Cohen said. "He had a lot of big misses early on, which was concerning to us, but here is a guy who pitched a bunch and played positionally (Friday). We needed to get off to a pretty good start, and he got us there.”
Ben Bracewell entered in the third and pitched a strong 2.2 innings before turning ball over to Nick Routt who earned the win.
Entering in the ninth was freshman closer Jonathan Holder who earned his ninth save of the season.
“Credit to both pitching staffs, especially John's group,” said UK head coach Gary Henderson. “Butch Thompson does a tremendous job over there. They’ve got a plan, obviously it is good.
“They command a second pitch and have above average action on the fastball. They have the ability to match up and it is not by accident because they have a guy over there (Thompson) who knows what he is doing and he is being rewarded for it right now.”
For the game, State pounded out two runs on eight hits while holding Kentucky to a single run on nine hits.
The Bulldogs move on to face the Vanderbilt Commodores with a first pitch set for 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2. State sends freshman Brandon Woodruff to the mound. Woodruff earned the win in a 9-1 win over Arkansas in the tournament opener for the Bulldogs.