SEC BASEBALL:

Hogs keep ’Dogs on leash for split

By: MICHAEL BONNER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Arkansas junior pitcher Jalen Beeks delivers a pitch against Eastern Illinois during the first inning Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas junior pitcher Jalen Beeks delivers a pitch against Eastern Illinois during the first inning Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Jalen Beeks found his fastball Saturday.

Mississippi State had no such luck as the junior controlled his fastball better than he has all season en route to a 4-0 victory in the opening game of a doubleheader at Dudy Noble Field.

“For the first time all season I feel like I actually got control of my fastball down in the zone,” Beeks said. “I was throwing a lot of strikes early in the year, but they weren’t where I wanted them.”

Mississippi State bounced back in the nightcap with four runs late in the sixth inning for a 5-1 victory to split the day’s games.

It took Mississippi State 141/3 innings to drive in its first run. Beeks stifled the Bulldogs through eight innings of the first game. He allowed a career-high nine hits but didn’t surrender a run. It’s the first time since February the left-hander left the mound without allowing a run.

In Beeks’ previous two SEC starts, he had combined to go 8 innings and surrendered 5 runs on 10 hits.

“Usually they are sitting on my change-up and adjusting to everything else because that’s usually my best pitch,” Beeks said. “But [Saturday] they had to adjust to my fastball, and that’s not on a scouting report. I think that helped a lot.”

The Razorbacks provided early offense to back Beeks. They manufactured four runs in three innings. It took just six singles. Mississippi State aided Arkansas with a couple of wild pitches and two hit batsmen in the second and fourth inning.

The Razorbacks created breathing room with a two-run fifth.

“One run was good, but that second run, it felt like we had a four-run lead,” said Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn, whose team turned in its fourth shutout in its past five games. “We punched in two more and we felt like we were in good shape.”

Arkansas began the second game in similar fashion. Andrew Benintendi scored after being hit by a pitch to lead led off the game, but Mississippi State starter Ross Mitchell silenced the Razorbacks’ offense thereafter.

The Bulldogs left-hander retired 23 of the next 24 hitters and turned in his second complete game of the season without allowing another run.

“He knows how to pitch. He’s an older kid with good stuff,” Van Horn said. “He’s always pitching ahead in the count. That’s huge.”

Mitchell joined Arkansas’ Game 2 starter, Trey Killian, as two of three SEC pitchers with multiple complete games this season. Unlike Beeks, Killian endured his worst outing in SEC play. The sophomore pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed 3 runs on 6 hits. He had allowed three earned runs in the previous 24 innings heading into Saturday.

“The pitching’s been solid. The starting pitching is giving us a chance,” Van Horn said. “Even the second game today, Trey Killian got us into the sixth inning.”

Killian left the game tied 1-1. Zach Jackson allowed both inherited runners to score. Mississippi State tacked on two more to split the doubleheader.

“It’s like I told our guys, if there’s any way you can go out and find a way to win on Sunday, you win a series against a highly ranked team that’s expected to do a lot,” Van Horn said. “It’d be big for us.”

Today’s game

ARKANSAS AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

WHEN 1:30 p.m. Central

WHERE Dudy Noble Field, Starkville, Miss.

RECORDS Arkansas 17-9, 4-4 SEC; Mississippi State 19-10, 5-3.

RANKINGS Mississippi State is No. 16 by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and USA Today/ESPN coaches polls RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.

INTERNET arkansasrazorbacks.com

PITCHING MATCHUP

Arkansas: Chris Oliver (RHP, 2-2, 1.74 ERA). Mississippi State: Trevor Fitts (RHP, 2-1, 3.13).

THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY at Mississippi State, 1:30 p.m.

MONDAY off TUESDAY Nebraska, 6:35 p.m.

WEDNESDAY Nebraska, 1:35 p.m.

THURSDAY South Carolina, 7 p.m.

FRIDAY South Carolina, 6 p.m.

SATURDAY South Carolina, 6 p.m.

All times Central

Sports, Pages 25 on 03/30/2014

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