Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Razorbacks make sure 1 scoring inning counts
Arkansas first baseman Chad Spanberger (left) celebrates with Jake Arledge and other teammates after Spanberger's 3-run home run against Mississippi State Saturday, March 18, 2017, during the second inning at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks scored in only one inning Saturday night, but it was enough as the SEC's leader in home runs got a pair of them from Carson Shaddy and Chad Spanberger to outlast Mississippi State 5-4.
The Razorbacks (16-4, 2-0 SEC) took the SEC-opening series from last year's conference champions before an estimated crowd of 6,573 at Baum Stadium and can sweep the Bulldogs (12-8, 0-2) with a victory in today's 1 p.m. finale.
"It's great that we won the series, but we have another game to go," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "It hasn't been easy, obviously. Both games could have gone either way."
Arkansas right-hander Trevor Stephan (4-0) was not as dominant as he'd been through his first four starts, but he picked up the victory after allowing 4 runs, 2 of them earned, on 7 hits with 8 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Cannon Chadwick worked out of a sticky situation in the seventh and posted an eight-out save, his second of the season. He retired the Bulldogs in order in the ninth inning and struck out five.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville increased its league-leading home run total to 29. All of the Razorbacks runs in the series have been produced from home runs.
The Razorbacks went to work on Bulldogs starter Peyton Plumlee in the second inning. Dominic Fletcher scorched a single through the right side. Three pitches later, Plumlee fired a pitch into the wheelhouse of Shaddy, who drove it over the left-field wall and into the bullpen for a 2-1 Arkansas lead.
After a groundout, Eric Cole drew a walk, then Jax Biggers beat out a bunt toward third base for a single. Jake Arledge struck out to bring up Spanberger. The 6-3, 240-pound junior took a half-swing for a strike, fouled off two pitches and worked the count to 2-2 before unloading a towering fly ball that soared well over the wall in right field for a three-run home run and a 5-1 lead.
"That curve ball was a little up, and I think he got it off the end of the bat a little bit," Van Horn said. "But tonight he got one, and that was the big play of the game."
The rally chased Plumlee (2-1) after the sophomore posted five outs, his shortest outing of the season by three innings.
The 30-plus minute rest was not profitable for Stephan, who labored in the top of the third.
Cody Brown drew a one-out walk and moved up on Ryan Gridley's high hopper over the first baseman Spanberger. Clean-up batter Brent Rooker poked a looper into center field to score Brown and cut the Bulldogs' deficit to 5-2.
Stephan got a hard ground ball from Luke Alexander that had double play potential, but the second baseman Shaddy's relay to first sailed high, allowing another run to score.
The Bulldogs struck for a run in the seventh, although it could have been more and came with controversy. With one out, Jake Mangum singled and Brown moved him to third when his grounder to first rolled under Spanberger's glove.
That play chased Stephan, then Barrett Loseke walked Gridley on a 3-2 pitch. Chadwick got Rooker, the SEC RBI leader, to pop into foul territory, where Spanberger made the catch before sprawling on the tarp. Mangum tagged and scored to make it 5-4, but Van Horn and the Razorbacks protested that Gridley left first before Spanberger made the catch. Second base umpire Tyler Simpson deemed Gridley safe, and after a brief huddle with the full crew, his call was upheld, allowing the run to stand.
The Mississippi State bullpen sparkled, as Denver McQuary and Jacob Barton limited Arkansas to a single and two walks in the final six innings. Arkansas' final hit was a leadoff single in the third inning by Shaddy.
Van Horn said his starter today would come from the quartet of Josh Alberius, Loseke, Dominic Taccolini and Kevin Kopps.
Sports on 03/19/2017
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