It's not exactly the most exciting play in baseball, but sacrifice flies are sure effective. Anyone needing proof needs only to check out Luke Hancock's last couple of days.
Hancock had a pair of them on Friday night, including what was ultimately a game-winner in the eighth inning, as No. 8 Mississippi State clinched a series win with a 3-2 victory over Kentucky. Hancock now has four total sac flies in the last two games, but none were bigger than his final one on Friday that put the Bulldogs ahead for good.
"Luke’s been really good all weekend," MSU head coach Chris Lemonis said. "He’s had some big swings when it mattered."
Hancock's late heroics came in what was a 2-2 game at the start of the eighth. Rowdey Jordan led off the inning with a single and Tanner Allen was then hit by a pitch. Jordan and Allen both moved into scoring position following a wild pitch. After Kamren James fouled out harmlessly, Hancock hopped on the first pitch he saw and flied one to deep right, easily scoring Jordan from third.
There was still a bit of late drama for State to polish off the victory. Kentucky had the tying run at second with only one out in the ninth against MSU relief pitcher Landon Sims. And when a seemingly for-sure pop out landed harmlessly in the middle of all Bulldog infielders to put two Wildcats on with one out, State was in a major jam. However Sims then induced a comebacker to the mound that started a game-ending double play.
That made sure MSU's strong start from pitcher Will Bednar didn't go to waste. Bednar allowed just two runs over six strong innings. He had to settle for a no-decision though as the Bulldogs mustered only two runs over the first six frames themselves.
Down 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Tanner Allen had an RBI single that drove home Brayland Skinner. Skinner scored on a dazzling move at home plate to avoid a tag. Hancock later had his first sacrifice fly of the night to tie things at 2-2. That score then held until the eighth inning when Hancock could lift another one deep enough into the Starkville night to give the Bulldogs the run they needed.
Perhaps it wasn't as thrilling as something like a go-ahead homer, but the end result is pretty much the same. Consequently, MSU now has a chance to sweep on Saturday at 2 p.m. thanks in large part to Hancock, the sacrifice fly machine.
"I'm just trying to hit a ball in the air," Hancock said. "If I just hit a ball in the outfield pretty deep we were going to go ahead (in the eighth). That's all I was trying to do."
(NOTE: YOU CAN HEAR FROM HANCOCK WITH HIS FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE BELOW IN THE OFFENSIVE MVP SECTION. YOU CAN SEE SIMS' FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE VIDEO AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. YOU CAN VIEW LEMONIS' FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE BY CLICKING HERE.)
Alright, let's take a look at Friday's numbers, MSU MVPs and the Moment of the Game.
Kentucky at Mississippi State box score
MSU Offensive MVP: DH Luke Hancock
Hancock had perhaps one of the most productive 0-for-2 nights in baseball history. Without a hit, Hancock drove in two of MSU's three runs, including the game winner.
It's a debatable topic for sure, but Hancock is getting to a point where he can make a case for being State's most clutch hitter. You can hear from Hancock with his full postgame press conference here as he discusses coming up in clutch situations and much more:
MSU Pitching MVP: SP Will Bednar
Bednar was brilliant on Friday. The right-hander lasted six innings, allowing just two runs on three hits. He struck out 10.
About the only mistake Bednar made was a pitch to Kentucky slugger T.J. Collett, who drove a two-run homer over the centerfield wall in the fourth. But other than that – once again – Bednar gave the Bulldogs more spectacular work.
"I thought he was great early," Lemonis said of Bednar. "We’re still working. The last two weeks he kind of got beat by (the opponents') best player. Kind of leaves a ball over the plate. He’s so confident in his stuff, there’s not a lot of fear in him. Just make a couple more pitches. We leave the ball over the plate to their best guy and he’s hot right now. We’ve got to pitch him a little bit better. I thought the stuff was great. Late in the game, his competitiveness was great."
Moment of the Game: Sims settles them down
Things were on the verge of getting out of control for MSU in the ninth when a pop up for what should have been the second out instead landed between all Bulldog infielders. It put Kentucky runners at first and second with only one out. The tying run was at second. The go-ahead run was at first.
But almost immediately upon the ball hitting the grass, Sims was settling his teammates down.
"I just said, 'We're good,'" Sims said of what he told his guys.
Sims was right. The next pitch he threw was a double-play grounder hit right back to him to end the ballgame.