(Photo Courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics)
STARKVILLE, Miss. – In her first career Southeastern Conference plate appearance, freshman pinch hitter Katie Anne Bailey stroked the first pitch she saw for a game-winning double to left center in the bottom of the seventh inning that plated junior Ashley Phillips Saturday afternoon and lifted Mississippi State to a 2-1 walk-off victory over No. 8 Kentucky.
Phillips started the contest-deciding rally with a one-out single through the left side and a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Kayla Winkfield put her in scoring position for Bailey’s key hit. Freshman Caroline Seitz also helped the offense, scoring the game’s first run and picking up two more doubles to increase her total to a Southeastern Conference-leading nine.
Mississippi State (20-3, 1-1 SEC) picked up its first win against a ranked opponent since topping No. 14 Texas A&M 6-2 on May 4, 2013. It was the program’s first victory over a top-10 foe since downing No. 4 Alabama 3-2 on April 19, 2013.
MSU sophomore Jacey Punches earned the start and tossed the first inning-and-two-thirds, giving up a hit and two walks while hitting one and fanning one. Freshman Alexis Silkwood relieved for the next four-and-a-third innings, scattering six walks and two hits. She struck out four and hit one. Senior Alison Owen (9-3) entered in the seventh inning and retired the only three batters she faced to pick up the win. Kentucky’s Lauren Cumbess threw the first four innings, yielding one run on two hits and a walk. She fanned six. Meagan Prince (5-1) entered for the remaining two-and-two-thirds and gave up three hits and a run and struck out one.
Kentucky (17-3, 1-1 SEC) mounted a two-out rally in the top of the first but was held off the scoreboard. With two outs, Ansley Smith was hit by a pitch and Griffin Joiner drew a four-pitch walk. A lineout to right by Cumbess stranded the pair.
In the second, the Wildcats loaded the bases but could not cash in on the scoreboard. With one down, Maisie Steed drew a walk. After a pop out, Emily Jolly doubled to left, moving Steed to third. Silkwood entered for Punches and walked pinch hitter Emily Gaines to fill the bases. Ginny Carroll grounded out to senior second baseman Heidi Shape to close the frame.
Mississippi State gained its first base runner in the bottom of the third inning as Phillips led off with a walk. Cumbess bounced back with consecutive strikeouts and a groundout to leave Phillips on first.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Bulldogs collected their first hit and took a 1-0 lead. With two outs, Seitz doubled off the base of the wall in left center. Foulks followed with a double that hit the chalk down the left-field line to plate Seitz. Cumbess induced a groundout to end the threat.
Kentucky answered right back in the top of the fifth to even the game at 1-1. With one out, Ansley Smith was hit by a pitch and Joiner drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Cumbess helped herself with a single off the wall in the corner in right field that plated Smith to tie the score. Sarah Frazer entered to pinch run for Cumbess at first base and a walk to Krystal Smith filled the bases. Pinch hitter Breanne Ray grounded into a fielder’s choice as first baseman Foulks threw home for the force. With two outs, Silkwood struck out pinch hitter Dari Richardson to leave the bases full.
MSU had the chance to retake the lead in the bottom of the fifth, but could not convert. Phillips led off reaching on a fielding error and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from junior pinch hitter Erika Gaul. Prince, who entered at the beginning of the frame, got out of trouble with a strikeout and groundout.
In the bottom of the sixth, Mississippi State had another two-out scoring chance but Prince shut the door. After a groundout and lineout, Seitz doubled to right field. Foulks grounded out to third base to strand Seitz.
UK had a chance to take a late lead in the seventh inning, but Owen retired three-straight Wildcats. Joiner led off with a four-pitch walk. Owen entered for Silkwood and recorded three consecutive outs on a pop out, fielder’s choice and strikeout.
The hold set the stage for the Bulldogs’ game-ending rally in the bottom of the seventh as Bailey delivered the key hit with two outs.
The teams decide the series Sunday with 1 p.m. CT contest.