STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State swept No. 22 Kentucky on Sunday in a back-and-forth game that ended in a 7-4 victory for the home team. The Bulldogs scored all of their runs on four homers, bringing their total in the series to 10 long balls.
The 10 home runs are the most the Bulldogs have ever hit in an SEC series. Today's four were one shy of yesterday's total that was the most in school history against an SEC opponent.
"Hitting is contagious, and I think once we stopped just putting so much extra pressure on ourselves and making every game bigger than it needed to be, it just felt like things loosened up and we were just playing our ball," head coach Samantha Ricketts said. "I'm just excited for the team, for the seniors, and it was fun to see them just kind of catch fire up and down the line up. It wasn't just one person all weekend which was fun to see."
State (27-22, 6-14 SEC) allowed one run in the first, but Paige Cook answered it with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning. Chloe Malau'ulu then hit a two-run homer in the third, and the Bulldogs would never trail again.
Kentucky (28-18-1, 8-13 SEC) scored again on a wild pitch in the fifth, but Cook responded with a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame. The Wildcats scored twice on a double in the sixth, but that was matched by a two-run homer from Matalasi Faapito.
Reis Beuerlein earned her fifth win of the year while striking out four in 3.0 innings. Faapito earned her second save of the season and her second in the series, tossing 2.0 innings with one strikeout.
Samantha Ricketts on her teams having a history of getting hot towards the end of the season...
"I'm not really sure, but I think we definitely know how to get hot at the right time. Obviously, we would've liked to do it a little sooner this year, but we're glad to take it when it comes. I think this group is resilient, and I think the biggest thing they understand is if we can learn lessons throughout the year and use them to propel us forward, then we're gonna be in a good position at the end of the season. It's just learning from the wins and the losses throughout the season, not letting anything be too big or continuing to make the same mistakes. Let's come out and take it one game at a time, one inning at a time and not try to look too big-picture and hopefully that's a little bit of pressure off of us. We know we control our own destiny, and we've got to continue to finish strong like we did this weekend."
Paige Cook on her recent hitting...
"I just came out and decided to keep it simple. I felt like I was wanting to go back to my old swing and just keep it simple and going back to how things were and just use my swing instead of doing too much." Chloe Malau'ulu on hitting her home run into her family on the outfield deck... "Honestly, it was very poetic. I was thinking about it, like, 'That would happen.' But I think it couldn't have ended in a better way than that. What are the odds?"
Chloe Malau'ulu on the team's home run pace this weekend...
"I think that this weekend we really left everything in the past, and we just were really intentional with being confident and stepping into the box ready to hit and ready to swing. I think we saw that on the first pitch on Friday. I think Nadia [Barbary] swung at the first pitch that was pitched, so I think that kind of set the tone and really foreshadowed what was going to happen for the rest of the series. I think we were ready to hit and everyone felt that the hitting was contagious, and it was really awesome to see."
Heavy Hitters - MSU hit 10 home runs in the series, which is the most in program history in an SEC series (since 2001) ... the previous record was seven, twice (LSU, April 5-7, 2019; South Carolina, May 7-8, 2005) ... the Bulldogs hit five homers on Saturday, which was their highest total ever against a conference opponent, and added four more on Sunday.
All About How You Finish - MSU is now 12-5 in the final two weeks of the regular season under head coach Samantha Ricketts (not including the shortened 2020 season).
Senior Sluggers - On Senior Weekend, State's four senior hitters combined to go 8-for-25 (.320) with two doubles and three homes for a .760 slugging percentage with 11 RBIs.
Aquana Brownlee - Collected two singles for her 10th multi-hit game of the year.
Paige Cook - Hit her team-leading 10th home run of the year, which is a single-season career high ... now ninth in MSU career history with 22 homers ... batted .667 in the series with three home runs and a double to lead the team with 14 total bases and five RBIs.
Chloe Malau'ulu - Extended her hitting streak to six games and is 8-for-18 in that span with three walks and five extra-base hits ... hit a two-run homer ... now tied with Madisyn Kennedy for 10th in MSU career history with 21 homers.
Josey Marron - Recorded strikeouts Nos. 85 and 86 this season ... needs six more to rank inside the top five freshman totals in school history.
Top 1 Erin Coffel hit a leadoff double to center field. Kayla Kowalik then singled to center field, scoring Coffel. No. 22 Kentucky 1, Mississippi State 0
Bottom 1 Paige Cook hit a solo home run to right field. No. 22 Kentucky 1, Mississippi State 1
Bottom 3 Nadia Barbary singled to left field to lead off before Chloe Malau'ulu hit a two run homer to right field. No. 22 Kentucky 1, Mississippi State 3
Top 5 Taylor Ebbs walked to open the inning and stole second base. Kennedy Sullivan singled to left field, advancing Ebbs to third. Erica Thulen pinch ran for Sullivan at first. Ebbs scored and Thulen advanced to second on a wild pitch. No. 22 Kentucky 2, Mississippi State 3
Bottom 5 With one out, Malau'ulu walked. Cook then hit a two-run shot over the right field wall. No. 22 Kentucky 2, Mississippi State 5
Top 6 Jenna Blanton beat out a bunt single to the pitcher with one out. Coffel walked to put runners on first and second before Kowalik doubled them both home. No. 22 Kentucky 4, Mississippi State 5
Bottom 6 Shea Moreno drew a one-out walk. With two outs, Matalasi Faapito hit a two-run homer to left. No. 22 Kentucky 4, Mississippi State 7
MSU will play at Samford on May 4 at 5 p.m. ET before heading to Auburn on May 5-7 for its final SEC and regular-season weekend.