Although the game turned out to be a low-scoring affair, it didn't look that way early on. Both Kentucky and Mississippi State threaten to score the first inning of the game.
Kentucky loaded the bases in the top of the first with a walk, single and hit batsman, but MSU starting pitcher Josh Johnson got out of it with no runs scoring when Brian Spear was called out on strikes.
Then, in the bottom half of the inning, the Bulldogs put two men on with two outs only to see Kentucky starting pitcher Greg Dowbrowski get LaNinfa on a bouncer back to the mound.
Kentucky, which left 16 runners on base during the game, kept Johnson on the ropes throughout the contest.
"Today, we dodged so many bullets early," said MSU head coach Ron Polk. "They had 16 men left on base and had so many opportunities to expand or get a lead."
Ryan Wilkes started the second inning by flying out to center field. The next two batters, Jason Kipnis and Brock Wright, walked, putting men on 1st and 2nd with one out. Johnson then got a 3-2 count on Antone DeJesus before striking him out on a high, hard fastball. Mike Brown was hit by a pitch, the second of six hits batsmen MSU pitching would give up on the day. With the bases loaded, Sawyer Carroll, also on a 3-2 count, lofted a fly ball to center field for the final out of the inning.
After State went quietly three and out in the bottom half of the inning, Kentucky once again mounted a threat in the third inning.
Sean Coughlin lined out to right center field for the first out of the inning. Then, Matt McKinney, on a 1-2 count, hit a ball up the middle that was fielded by the shortstop but thrown too low at first for an error. Johnson got Brian Spear on a strikeout for the second out of the inning. But his nemesis, a hit batter, once again struck - Ryan Wilkes was hit by a pitch to put men on first and second. But Johnson struck out Kipnis to end the threat.
The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the bottom half of the inning.
Jeffrey Rea, with one out, lined a single by the first baseman. Then, Brandon Turner scored Rea with a double to right center field. Easley followed with a high fly ball to center field that Kentucky's center fielder couldn't find. Easley wound up at second base with a double and Turner moved to third. Moreland knocked in Turner with a ground ball out to second base. LaNinfa ended the inning by striking out.
The 'Dogs were up two to nothing after three, but it seems nothing comes easy for these Bulldogs.
"I thought we might get ahead and put some runs on the board pretty early, but you know us, we seem to make it close somehow," said Moreland. And he was right because their lead was short lived.
Kentucky quickly struck back with two runs of their own against Johnson in the top of the fourth. After the first two batters struck out, Mike Brown singled to the right of the shortstop. Carroll then hit a home run to right field to tie the game. Johnson ended the inning like he started with a strikeout to Coughlin.
Both teams threaten in the 5th and 6th, but neither could plate a run.
Then, in the seventh, Kentucky jumped on top for their first lead of the game.
After McKinney popped up to first to start the inning, Spear walked and Wilkes lined a single up the middle. State replaced John Lalor - who had relieved Johnson after the fifth inning - with Ricky Bowen. Bowen hit Kipnis with a 2-2 pitch, the sixth Kentucky batter to be hit by a pitch during the game. Tyler Howe, pinch-hitting for Wright, hit a short fly ball to left field that Spear scored on, putting Kentucky ahead 3-2. DeJesus grounded out to end the inning.
They expanded the lead with a run in the eighth.
After Brown was called out on strikes to start the inning, Carroll singled just to the right of second base. It looked like Bowen might get out of the inning when he got Coughlin to fly out to left field, but after he walked McKinney, Spear, on the first pitch, singled to left, scoring Carroll. Bowen got Wilkes to ground out to second base for the final out of the inning.
State answered with two runs in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game.
Turner started the inning with a single that was just out of the reach of the shortstop. Easley hit a grounder to third that Kentucky tried to turn into a double play but a high throw to second pulled the second baseman off the bag. He completed the throw to first to get Easley out at first. The high throw would cost Kentucky because the next batter, Moreland, hit a home run over the right field wall, tying the score. Kentucky replaced Dombrowski with Troy Ragle. Ragle did his job by getting LaNinfa to pop up to second and McCaskill to ground out to short to end the inning.
"I got it pretty good," said Moreland of his two-run home run. "It was kind of down and in. Once I got it in the air I thought it might have a chance. I'm just glad it went out."
Kentucky, in the top of the ninth, once again put a scoring threat together.
Kipnis singled to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Howe, MSU replaced Bowen with Moreland. Moreland, on a 2-2 count, got DeJesus on a called strikeout. Then Brown hit a lazy fly ball to right to end the inning.
"I was trying to keep everything right there," said Moreland. "I didn't want that guy to score from second."
State won it in the bottom of the ninth on Turner's clutch two-out hit.
Powers led off with a single between short and third. Kentucky replaced Ragle with Duran Ferguson. Nick Hardy, pinch-hitting for Rice, sacrificed Powers to second. Goforth bounced out to first, moving Powers to third base. After Ferguson walked Rea on a 3-1 count, Turner, on a 2-1 count, lined a pitch to left that scored Powers for the game-winner.
"I hit a high slider that he hung. I felt like if he gives me something that he hangs I was going to go ahead and try to swing at it," said Turner of his game-winning hit.
Turner, who was 8-for-12 in the series, led the Bulldogs in hitting with a 3-for-5 day at the plate and two RBI. Mitch Moreland and Edward Easley were both 2-for-4. Moreland led the 'Dogs in RBI with three.
Turner's hitting prowess doesn't surprise Moreland.
"When Brandon is at the plate you don't look at him as a freshman because he's a great hitter," said Moreland. "I'm glad it came down to Brandon because we needed to do it."
Moreland earned the victory for State. Josh Johnson kept State in the game by allowing just two runs on three hits, three walks and 4 hit batsmen. He stuck out eight in his five innings of work.
"If you look at their stats they have so many hit batters and walks. They are looking for it, that's their game. But Josh did a great job because they left a lot of batters on," said Moreland of Johnson's performance. "He did a great job shutting the door when runners got on. I'm proud for him."
Kentucky only had one hitter with more than one hit, Sawyer Carroll, who was 3-for-5 with 2 RBI.
Troy Ragle took the loss. Starting pitcher Greg Dowbrowski threw 7.1 innings, allowing 4 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 6.
"(Dowbrowski) is good," said Polk. "He's a control artist who has good movement. I knew we weren't going to score that many runs against him."
With the victory, MSU goes to 18-7 overall and 5-4 in the SEC. Kentucky, ranked 10th in the nation, is now 24-4 and 4-4-1 in the SEC.
Mississippi State's next game is Tuesday night against Louisiana-Monroe. Gametime is set for 6:30 p.m.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.