STARKVILLE - Mississippi State claimed a 6-2 win to open its final home series of the season against No. 20 Kentucky. Aquana Brownlee hit a three-run homer in the third that proved to be the difference.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first, State (25-22, 4-14 SEC) scored twice in the second on back-to-back sacrifice flies from Shea Moreno and Madisyn Kennedy. Brownlee's blast followed a one-out walk to Chloe Malau'ulu and a double from Paige Cook. Nadia Barbary added an RBI double in the sixth to extend the Bulldog lead.
In all, seven Bulldogs collected hits in the game with three of those going for extra bases. Moreno didn't have a hit, but drove in MSU's first run with her sacrifice fly.
"It felt good because we knew it was going to take a game like this, it was going to be a team effort and we had to be good in all three phases and play like the team we know we can be," head coach Samantha Ricketts said. "It was exactly how we knew we would break out of it. Big credit to the team, to the girls, for not giving in, not going away and continuing to grind and fight for it. I'm just really happy for them to get that first one out of the way and just kind of take some of that pressure off of us to hopefully get us going here on a run at the end of the year."
Reis Beuerlein earned the win, tossing 4.0 innings while allowing just one run. She struck out five. Her biggest moment came in the third inning while leading 2-1. With runners on second and third, Beuerlein retired the next three in order to get out of the jam.
Josey Marron tossed the final 3.0 innings, allowing one run on a sacrifice fly.
Samantha Ricketts on Aquana Brownlee's homer making a difference... "Aquana all year long has been the hitter, she wants to be the one up in the pressure situations. She wants to be the RBI producer. She wants to be the big scary bat, so it's really fun to see her come up. I just think she's grown tremendously in her confidence at the plate, and she was ready for a moment like that."
Samantha Ricketts on the mental impact of this win... "I think the biggest thing is that it gets everyone relaxed a little bit, and I thought the best thing we did was we relaxed before the game started. We found a way to loosen up in practice and pregame and just play our game again. I think, right now, the message is one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time, not looking at too big a picture about how many we have to get, or what we need to do for our postseason resume. Let's control what we can, and let's do it one inning at a time, together."
Reis Beuerlein on being in control... "I was just really excited to get a start. It's been a little bit since I've started, so that was exciting. I'm usually in the closing role, and I was expecting to just try and get my team a win. We've been on a losing streak, and I was really motivated to go out there and try and hold them. [I] started out giving up a run, but then just tried to come right back and hold them to zero so that we can come back and score some runs. It was just exciting to get to start against a ranked opponent, so I was really motivated."
Aquana Brownlee on her home run to boost State's lead... "It just felt good to get a good hit like that with the team rallying behind me. We switched some things up, and basically I was only playing DP in this game, so that took a lot of pressure off me and I could have a good day at the plate."
Nadia Barbary - Doubled home a run ... recorded her sixth multi-hit game.
Reis Beuerlein - Allowed just one run in 4.0 innings ... struck out five ... retired three straight with runners on second and third in the third inning.
Aquana Brownlee - Hit a three-run homer ... it was her second home run in the last three games ... now second on the team with seven homers this year.
Paige Cook - Doubled and scored.
Riley Hull - Singled and walked ... also scored.
Chloe Malau'ulu - Extended her hitting streak to four games and is 6-for-13 in that span with two walks and three extra-base hits ... also walked and scored.
Jackie McKenna - Has now matched her career-long hitting streak at six games ... also walked and was hit by a pitch to reach in all three trips.
With one out, Kayla Kowalik singled to center then stole second. Kennedy Sullivan singled to left with two outs, scoring Kowalik. No. 20 Kentucky 1, Mississippi State 0
Jackie McKenna reached first with a leadoff walk. Riley Hull singled to center, then advanced to second on a bobbled ball by the center fielder. McKenna advanced to third on the error. Shea Moreno hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring McKenna. Hull advanced to third on the play. Madisyn Kennedy hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Hull. No. 20 Kentucky 1, Mississippi State 2
Chloe Malau'ulu drew a one-out walk. Paige Cook doubled to right-center field to advance Malau'ulu to third. Aquana Brownlee hit a three-run homer to left field. No. 20 Kentucky 1, Mississippi State 5
Grace Losung hit a leadoff single off the pitcher's glove. Jenna Blanton entered the game as a pinch runner for Losung. Blanton stole second. Hallie Mitchell grounded out to second to advance Blanton to third. Meeko Harrison hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Blanton. No. 20 Kentucky 2, Mississippi State 5
Kennedy led off with a single to center. Kat Wallace entered the game as a pinch runner for Kennedy. Nadia Barbary doubled to center field, scoring Wallace from first. No. 20 Kentucky 2, Mississippi State 6
Saturday's middle game of the series has been moved up to a 2 p.m. CT start to get ahead of forecasted weather and fill a vacated TV window caused by weather issues across the conference. State will honor its seniors pregame beginning at 1:40 p.m. CT, and the game will air on SEC Network.