STARKVILLE, Miss. — A three-run eighth inning proved to be the difference Friday night, as Mississippi State dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 1 Tennessee on Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
The loss puts MSU at 26-29 (9-20 SEC) and ensures the Bulldogs will miss the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2015. The Volunteers improve to 48-7 (24-5 SEC).
Hits were even at 8-8. with freshman Hunter Hines leading the Bulldogs with a 3-for-4 night at the plate with two runs and an RBI. Senior Brayland Skinner added two hits. The Volunteers were led by junior Drew Gilbert, who finished with two hits, including a two-run home run in the eighth inning to put Tennessee ahead. Graduate students Luc Lipcius and Evan Russell also finished with two hits apiece.
Junior starting pitcher Preston Johnson (3-4) pitched 7 2⁄3 strong innings, but late runs ended his night on the mound. He allowed four runs on seven with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Junior KC Hunt tossed the final 1 1⁄3 innings, allowing one hit, walking one better and striking out two.
Freshman Chase Burns pitched six innings for the Volunteers and allowed three runs on eight hits with six strikeouts. Sophomore Blade Tidwell (2-1) then entered in the bottom of the seventh inning with two runs already scored and a runner on second base with no outs. He proceeded to strike out junior James, Skinner and sophomore Lane Forsythe. Tidwell pitched three hitless innings and struck out five of the nine batters he faced.
MSU took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Hines hit a leadoff home run to center field. Tennessee tied the game in the top of the fifth inning when Russell hit a two-out double to left-center field, moved to third on a groundout and scored on junior Seth Stephenson’s RBI single to center field.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Hines led off with a double down the right-field line and advanced to third on senior Brad Cumbest’s single through the left side. Cumbest then stole second before sophomore Kellum Clark hit a two-RBI double to right-center to put the Bulldogs ahead 3-1.
Johnson got the first two batters to fly out to begin the top of the eighth inning, but Lipcius kept the inning alive with a double to the gap in right-center. Junior Jordan Beck followed with an RBI single through the left side to make it a one-run ballgame. Gilbert then followed with a two-run home run to left field to give the Volunteers a 4-3 lead.
The Bulldogs will look to end the season on a high note on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.