STARKVILLE - Mississippi State slugged five homers to claim a 12-6 victory over No. 20 Kentucky, clinching the series in the process. After MSU plated five runs in both the fifth and the sixth innings, the game was called final due to weather in the area.
Madisyn Kennedy started the Bulldog comeback with a solo shot in the second inning of a 5-0 ballgame. State added a run on senior Jackie McKenna's double in the third before surrendering a final run to Kentucky in the top of the fifth.
From then on, it was all Bulldogs. Two walks, a fielder's choice and an error scored a run and loaded the bases for senior Shea Moreno who hit her first career grand slam. State would never trail again.
"I thought they did a good job of keeping their heads up and just kept chipping away, trying to string together quality at-bats and keep the lead at what it was to give us a chance," head coach Samantha Ricketts said. "Madi [Kennedy] got us started there at the bottom of the lineup with our first hit - that home run that she hit - and then Shea with the big knockout punch. I'm just so proud of the whole group.
" There was even more to celebrate in the sixth. The Bulldogs hit three home runs in one inning for the first time since Feb. 25, 2022 against Longwood. Following senior Chloe Malau'ulu's leadoff double, Paige Cook sent a ball over the right field wall. After a walk, McKenna left the yard, hitting her face on the scoreboard in left. Finally, Kennedy hit her second solo home of the day to left field.
State has now won an SEC series against a ranked team in every season since 2019. The win was MSU's third against a ranked opponent this year, and the 12 runs matched State's season high set earlier in wins against Tulsa and Indiana. The five home runs are an MSU record against an SEC opponent and tied for third overall in State' single-game history.
Samantha Ricketts on the mentality of coming back from an early deficit...
"We've been used to the adversity, and we talked going into the week that we've been through every situation. And a team scoring on us in the first inning-we've been there before. A team getting a big lead in the first inning-been there before. So, just not to let it discourage us and understand that we're trying to win every inning. If we don't win the first, then let's try to go win the second. I think they've shown a lot of fight through this adversity, and it's a tough mindset more than anything. It's really not physical. It's how to stay locked in, day in and day out, when things aren't going your way to set you up for a series win like this. I'm just proud of them for that fight and to be able to stay in the fight through the ups and the downs."
Ricketts on the seniors' performance on Senior Day...
"It's so special. We always talk-there's a little bit of Senior Day magic and even to be able to pick up their pitchers from the early innings, I thought was huge. Again, they weren't going up there trying to hit home runs. It was just, 'What can I do for the team? How can I have a team at-bat?' and they get a result where the ball ends up over the fence. But, I'm really excited for both of them. Jackie [McKenna] was just talking pregame about how she hasn't had a home run this year... yet. But she knew it was coming, and she really just stayed bought into her process and what she's been doing, day in and day out. I'm just excited for her, for Shea, for the whole class to be able to go out on Senior Day."
Jackie McKenna on how the team has handled the pressure on them...
"All along, we knew we had a good team. We knew we could do it. We have the talent. We have, up and down the lineup, everyone we need and want. It was just a matter of slowly getting the wins and breaking out of the 14-game losing streak."
Shea Moreno on her grand slam to take the lead...
"I was really just looking for a pitch that I can drive. Mia [Davidson-Smith] and Coach [Samantha] Ricketts talked to me a lot before my at-bat, just looking for what the most successful pitch would be. I just waited for the pitch, was patient and drove it."
Shea Moreno on her emotions when she hit the home run...
"It was crazy, but it felt amazing. Just to be able to really help my team out and to help our pitchers out too was really just great. I could've done a backflip if I knew how to."
Bulldog Blasts - State's five home runs are tied for the third-most in school history and broke the school record for home runs in an SEC game ... MSU hit three homers in the sixth inning alone ... it was the Bulldogs' first three-homer inning since Feb. 25, 2022 against Longwood when Mia Davidson-Smith hit two in the same frame.
Senior Sluggers - MSU's seniors who were recognized pregame combined to go 4-for-12 with two doubles and two homers for an .833 slugging percentage ... they also provided eight of MSU's 12 RBIs.
Paige Cook - Hit her team-leading ninth home run of the year ... also walked a career-high three times.
Madisyn Kennedy - Hit two solo home runs ... now has six homers this year, which ranks fourth on the team ... also doubled ... matched her career high with three hits.
Chloe Malau'ulu - Extended her hitting streak to five games and is 7-for-16 in that span with two walks and four extra-base hits ... doubled and scored today.
Jackie McKenna - Doubled and homered to extend her career-long hitting streak to seven games ... drove in a career-high four runs for her second multi-RBI game of the year.
Shea Moreno - Hit her first career grand slam to take the lead in the fifth ... was her first home run of the season and fourth career long ball ... posted a career high in RBIs.
Brylie St. Clair - Beat out her team-leading 18th infield hit.
Erin Coffel singled over the second baseman's head to start the game. Coffel then advanced on a passed ball. Kayla Kowalik walked. Taylor Ebbs hit a single to left field bringing Coffel in to score and moving Kowalik to second. Kennedy Sullivan walked to lead the bases. Meeko Harrison then hit a three-run triple.
No. 20 Kentucky 4, Mississippi State 0
Coffel singled to left field and stole second base. Kowalik then walked. Ebbs flew out to center field, advancing Coffel to third and Kowalik to second. Sullivan singled to center field, scoring Coffel and advancing Kowalik to third.
No. 20 Kentucky 5, Mississippi State 0
Madisyn Kennedy hit a solo home run to left with one out.
No. 20 Kentucky 5,Mississippi State 1
Paige Cook walked to lead off and advanced to second on Aquana Brownlee's ground out to third. Jackie McKenna doubled to left center, bringing Cook home.
No. 20 Kentucky 5, Mississippi State 2
Coffel was hit by a pitch with two outs. Kowalik singled to left, and Coffel advanced to second base. Taylor Ebbs singled to right field, scoring Coffel and advancing Kowalik to third base.
No. 20 Kentucky 6, Mississippi State 2
Cook drew a leadoff walk to lead off. Brownlee reached base on a fielding error by the third baseman, she advanced to second on the throw, while Cook advanced to third. Morgan Bernardini pinch ran for Brownlee and second. Jackie McKenna reached first on a fielder's choice to the shortstop while Bernardini was caught in a rundown. An error let her escape and reach third safely. Cook came in to score on the play. Saleyna Daniel pinch ran for Jackie McKenna. Daniel advanced to second on a wild pitch. Riley Hull walked to load the bases., before Shea Moreno hit a grand slam to left center field.
No. 20 Kentucky 6, Mississippi State 7
Chloe Malau'ulu led off the inning with a double to right center field. Cook hit a two-run homer to right field. Brownlee was walked before McKenna launched a two-run shot to left field. Kennedy followed up with a solo home run to left field.
No. 20 Kentucky 6, Mississippi State 12
The series finale is set for 12 p.m. CT on Sunday, April 30. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.