STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State baseball’s first season as defending national champions ended with a 10-5 loss to No. 1 Tennessee on Saturday at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs end their season with a 26-30 (9-21 SEC) record and fail to qualify for the Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time since 2015. The Volunteers improve to 49-7 (25-5 SEC) and will be the No. 1 seed in SEC Tournament. Tennessee is just the third team in SEC history to compile 25 conference wins.
MSU led 1-0 after the first inning, but Tennessee scored in each inning from the second to the sixth to secure the win.
Hits were 11-9 in favor of the Bulldogs, with sophomore Kellum Clark going 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Graduate student RJ Yeager and junior Kamren James added two hits, one RBI and one run apiece. Tennessee was led by junior Drew Gilbert with three hits, three runs and two RBIs, while graduate student Luc Lipcius finished with two hits and a run.
Sophomore pitcher Cade Smith (4-4) started for the Bulldogs and was charged with the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) on one hit with one strikeout and one walk in one inning.
Freshman Pico Kohn then allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits and four walks in 2 2⁄3 innings of work. Sophomore Jackson Fristoe entered the game with two outs in the top of the fourth inning. He went 3 1⁄3 innings and allowed four runs on four hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Seniors Cam Tullar and Drew Talley combined to pitch a scoreless eighth inning before junior KC Hunt pitched a scoreless ninth inning,
Freshman Drew Beam started on the mound for Tennessee and went two innings, allowing two runs on three hits with one walk. Kirby Connell (3-0), Tennessee’s third pitcher of six total used, earned the win after entering in the bottom of the fourth inning and tossing 2 2⁄3 hitless innings with one strikeout.
MSU took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Yeager led off with his team-leading 18th home run of the season.
Tennessee answered with three runs in the top of the second inning. Gilbert went to first on a catcher’s interference and senior Trey Lipscomb followed with a two-run homer to left-center. Redshirt sophomore Jorel Ortega was then walked, and freshman Blake Burke reached on an error charged to senior Brad Cumbest when he collided with sophomore Lane Forsythe. A flyout followed before junior Cortland Lawson was walked to load the bases. Ortega scored on Seth Stephenson’s RBI sacrifice fly to put the Volunteers ahead 3-1.
In the bottom half of the second, Clark hit a one-out single up the middle and stole second. James plated him with an RBI single to right-center to cut the deficit down to one at 3-2.
Gilbert hit a leadoff single up the middle to begin the top of the third inning. A flyout followed before Ortega homered to left-center to make it a 5-2 ballgame.
In the top of the fourth inning, Stephenson drew a walk and advanced to third after Lipcius singled down the first-base line. Stephenson came in to score on a throwing error to the plate by senior Luke Hancock that made it 6-2.
A home run by graduate student Evan Russell in the top of the fifth inning extended Tennessee’s lead to 7-2.
In the top of the sixth inning, Lipcius singled to left field followed by a double from junior Jordan Beck, and Gilbert followed with a two-RBI double down the right-field line. A groundout pushed Gilbert to third before he scored on Ortega’s RBI groundout to give the Volunteers a 10-2 lead.
The Bulldogs used five consecutive singles in the bottom of the seventh inning to score two runs. James led off with a single up the middle, senior Brayland Skinner singled through the right side and senior Tanner Leggett singled to left field to score James. Yeager then singled to center field and Hancock scored Skinner with a single down the first-base line.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Clark hit his 14th homer of the season to end the game’s scoring at 10-5.