Arkansas swept by SEC West's last-place team

By: Matt Jones
Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn discusses a controversial call during the third inning with some of the unidentified game umpires during the first game of a double-header against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Photo by Jim Lytle
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn discusses a controversial call during the third inning with some of the unidentified game umpires during the first game of a double-header against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, April 21, 2018.

Game 2

Mississippi State 7, Arkansas 5 - Final

Arkansas went down in order in the ninth and has been swept by the last-place team in the SEC West.

This is as unlikely of a result as the Razorbacks have had all season, but something to remember is that Mississippi State also has a home series win over Ole Miss earlier this year and the Rebels still are in strong position to be a regional host, and potentially a national seed. One weekend will not make or break a season.

That said, Arkansas has some soul-searching to do after this series. The Razorbacks' pitching unraveled late in all three games and Arkansas continued a weeks-long trend of stranding several base runners. Arkansas stranded 20 combined in the Saturday doubleheader.

One wonders whether the bad nature of the series sweep could be good for Arkansas in the long run. Sometimes these type losses can serve as needed motivation during a long season when motivation is not always present.

The Razorbacks will get two days off before its midweek home series against Texas Tech, another potential national seed, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Red Raiders (32-8) have won their series against Oklahoma this weekend and will go for the sweep tomorrow.

As bad as being swept was, Arkansas still could come out of the weekend with the lead in the SEC West. At worst, the Razorbacks will be in a four-way tie for the division lead next week after LSU lost its series to South Carolina and Texas A&M was upset last night by Tennessee.

Arkansas is still winless in road SEC series. The Razorbacks are 2-7 in SEC road games against Florida, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Mississippi State 7, Arkansas 5 - End 8th Inning

Dominic Fletcher made a great diving catch to rob Mississippi State of a hit and likely a run in the eighth. It kept Justin Foscue at first base after he singled.

Arkansas will send Eric Cole, Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad to the plate in the ninth.

Mississippi State 7, Arkansas 5 - Middle 8th Inning

Dominic Fletcher doubled and scored on Luke Bonfield's pinch-hit RBI single, but the Razorbacks stranded two in the eighth when Grant Koch fouled out right field. Arkansas has stranded eight despite having as many hits as Mississippi State - 10 apiece.

Mississippi State 7, Arkansas 4 - End 7th Inning

This has been about as bad as Arkansas has played this season; the Razorbacks just cannot make the big plays, whereas Mississippi State is making all the plays necessary. It appears Arkansas is having trouble matching the Bulldogs' energy.

Rowdey Jordan singled to lead off the seventh and scored on Luke Alexander's one-out single. The Bulldogs have had 10 hits in both games today.

Mississippi State 6, Arkansas 4 - Middle 7th Inning

Arkansas couldn't do anything with a Casey Martin two-out single. Heston Kjerstad grounded out to second to end the inning. The Razorbacks have stranded six, while the Bulldogs have stranded only two. Both teams have eight hits.

Mississippi State 6, Arkansas 4 - End 6th Inning

Casey Opitz's passed ball on the first pitch from Jake Reindl allowed Elijah MacNamee to score from third base. Reindl came close to making the tag, but MacNamee got underneath the glove.

The final line on Isaiah Campbell: 5 2/3 innings, 6 runs (5 earned), 8 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 2 wild pitches.

Cole Gordon is coming into the game for the Bulldogs in the seventh. The final line for MSU starter Jacob Billingsley: 6 innings, 4 runs (3 earned), 7 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, 3 wild pitches. He is in line for the win; Campbell is in line for the loss.

Mississippi State 5, Arkansas 4 - Bottom 6th Inning

The pitching has come unraveled late in all three games of this series. Isaiah Campbell just allowed a two-out single by Elijah MacNamee to give the Bulldogs the lead.

To compound things, Dominic Fletcher's throw to the plate was way off line and Casey Opitz had trouble fielding it, an error on the catcher that allowed MacNamee to advance to third base.

Jake Reindl is the new Arkansas pitcher. Campbell leaves in line for the loss.

Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 4 - Bottom 6th Inning

Luke Alexander singled and Tanner Allen doubled to leadoff the sixth, and Mississippi State scored both on a sacrifice fly and fielder's choice to the opposite field.

Both runs came against Isaiah Campbell, who walked Justin Foscue with two outs. Campbell then threw a wild pitch to allow Foscue to advance to second. It was his second wild pitch of the game.

Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 2 - Middle 6th Inning

Casey Opitz's two-out single scored Jared Gates, who reached on a one-out single. Jax Biggers also walked in the inning, but the Razorbacks stranded runners on the corners when Hunter Wilson struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Jacob Billingsley has made it through six innings on the mound for the Bulldogs. He has allowed seven hits and struck out seven.

Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 2 - End 5th Inning

Mississippi State scored a run in the fifth, but a great defensive play by Jared Gates saved a run and kept the Razorbacks in the lead.

Justin Foscue doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a fielder's choice groundout. Rowdey Jordan doubled with two outs, but he was stranded when Gates went to the ground to his right to catch a line drive by Jake Mangum.

Arkansas is out-hitting Mississippi State 6-5 and has left three on base to the Bulldogs' two.

Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 1 - Middle 5th Inning

Hunter Wilson led off with a single, stole second base and advanced to third on a bunt, but he was stranded when Eric Cole struck out and Casey Martin grounded out to the pitcher.

Arkansas has stranded three so far against Jacob Billingsley.

Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 1 - End 4th Inning

Tanner Allen singled to lead off the fourth, but was thrown out by Casey Opitz trying to steal second base. That is the second time today that Opitz has thrown out a base runner.

The inning ended with Isaiah Campbell's sixth strikeout of the game.

Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 1 - Middle 4th Inning

Dominic Fletcher reached on a bunt single, but that was all for the Razorbacks in the fourth. That was Arkansas' first hit since the three-run, three-hit first inning.

Jacob Billingsley has settled in for Mississippi State. He has five strikeouts and has walked just one.

Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 1 - End 3rd Inning

Mississippi State had two hits off Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell in the third and scored when Jake Mangum singled with two outs.

Campbell also issued a walk in the inning, but that was erased when Rowdey Jordan was caught in a rundown between first and second base. Campbell has five strikeouts through three innings.

Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 0 - Middle 2nd Inning

Both teams went down in order in their most recent at-bat. Casey Martin made a great sliding catch in foul ground for the final out of the Mississippi State first. Evan Lee looked at a 3-2 pitch to end the top of the second.

Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 0 - Middle 1st Inning

Jared Gates' two-run double to the wall in left-center scored two more and gave the Razorbacks a healthy lead. Gates eventually advanced to third, but was stranded when Jax Biggers struck out to end the inning.

Arkansas had three hits in the inning.

Arkansas 1, Mississippi State 0 - Top 1st Inning

Evan Lee led off with a double, Casey Martin followed with a single and Casey Martin reached on a fielding error to put the Razorbacks up quickly.

Game 1

Mississippi State 5, Arkansas 3 - Final

Arkansas put together a two-out rally in the ninth, but Grant Koch struck out with the bases loaded and the Razorbacks have easily their worst series loss of the season.

Eric Cole hit a solo home run to left field to pull the Razorbacks within a run, then Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad followed with singles, and Carson Shaddy was hit by a pitch to bring up Koch.

Koch struck out swinging on a 1-2 slider. The Razorbacks stranded the bases loaded twice and a total of 12 base runners. Arkansas out-hit Mississippi State 13-10.

Kacey Murphy took his third loss of the season. The Razorbacks fell to 2-6 in SEC road games.

Ironically, Mississippi State's only SEC series wins have been over Arkansas and Ole Miss, both potential national seeds.

The teams will play Game 3 beginning at around 4:30 p.m.

Mississippi State 5, Arkansas 2 - End 8th Inning

Kole Ramage inherited two base runners in the eighth, then threw two wild pitches and allowed an RBI double that allowed the Bulldogs to score twice, and send another runner to third base.

The Razorbacks must score three times in the ninth to avoid a bad series loss to the team that is last in the SEC West.

Jared Gates, Jax Biggers and Eric Cole are guaranteed to bat in the ninth.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 2 - Middle 8th Inning

Grant Koch reached on a check-swing single and Evan Lee walked to load the bases, but Dominic Fletcher popped up to the shortstop to strand three. Fletcher, as has been the case several times this season. dipped his shoulder and tried to get air under the ball, but popped it straight up when he did.

If there was any good news for Arkansas in the inning, it got enough hitters to the plate that the top of the order will get a chance to hit again in the ninth.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 2 - Top 8th Inning

Perhaps the biggest moment in the game is upon Arkansas. Casey Martin reached on a leadoff single and has advanced to second with two outs. Mississippi State is going to the bullpen to bring in its closer, right-hander Blake Smith, to face Grant Koch.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 2 - End 7th Inning

Marshall Gilbert reached on a fielding error by Arkansas third baseman Casey Martin to lead off the seventh. Kacey Murphy reached two, then Cody Scroggins induced a two-out groundout to end the inning.

Murphy's final line: 6 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 8 hits, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts. He is in line to be the loser.

Zach Neff, who retired the final two Razorbacks in the seventh, is back out to pitch the eighth. He will face Casey Martin, Heston Kjerstad and Carson Shaddy, perhaps the Razorbacks' best scoring opportunity.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 2 - Middle 7th Inning

Arkansas was hitting the right-handed reliever well, so Mississippi State went back to a lefty, Zach Neff, to kill a rally.

Dominic Fletcher followed the Evan Lee home run with a single, then pinch-hitter Jared Gates hit one hard to left field for an out. Neff came in and got consecutive groundouts from Jax Biggers and Eric Cole.

The Razorbacks have stranded six.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 2 - Top 7th Inning

Evan Lee just drilled a 0-2 pitch for a leadoff home run to left field.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 1 - End 6th Inning

Arkansas erased a one-out single with an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play in the sixth.

Now the Razorbacks get a reliever, right-hander Keegan James. Evan Lee will pinch-hit for Luke Bonfield to lead off the inning.

Ethan Small's final line: 6 innings, 1 run, 6 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 1 - Middle 6th Inning

Heston Kjerstad doubled to right field with one out. Carson Shaddy nearly hit a home run to center field in the next at-bat, but it came up just short of the wall for a flyout in foul ground. The inning ended when Grant Koch flied out, stranding Kjerstad at third base.

Like last night, the Razorbacks are getting runners on base, but doing very little with them.

Mississippi State 3, Arkansas 1 - Bottom 5th Inning

The Razorbacks are in some trouble after Luke Alexander and Tanner Allen recorded two-out RBI hits. Alexander doubled on a 0-2 pitch left over the plate, then Allen singled on the next pitch.

Kacey Murphy has been good this season, but he has had the tendency to leave some pitches up in the zone. He clearly missed his spot on the pitch to Alexander.

Arkansas 1, Mississippi State 1 - Middle 5th Inning

Both teams failed to score after recording leadoff hits in their last time at the plate. Dominic Fletcher led off the top of the fifth with a single for Arkansas, but Jordan McFarland, Jax Biggers and Eric Cole all were out on contact.

The Razorbacks are out-hitting the Bulldogs 5-4. Arkansas has stranded four to Mississippi State's three.

Arkansas 1, Mississippi State 1 - Middle 4th Inning

The Razorbacks are on the board after Luke Bonfield's two-out single in the fourth scored Heston Kjerstad from second base. There is some question as to whether the run should count as Carson Shaddy was thrown out at third base at the same time as Kjerstad scored.

The call on the field was the run scored. Frankly, it will be difficult to overturn that call because the umpires have to rely on the network feed, which has been shaky from the Mississippi State production team.

Kjerstad should have had a scoring chance earlier in the inning when Shaddy singled. Kjerstad appeared to have a hit down the line for what would have been a double, but the first base umpire, Todd Henderson, called the hit foul. Replay looked to confirm it was a hit, but that is not a reviewable play.

Update: The run stood after replay.

Mississippi State 1, Arkansas 0 - Bottom 3rd Inning

Rowdey Jordan, the nine-hole hitter, just hit a leadoff home run in the third on a 2-2 pitch from Kacey Murphy. Jordan turned on the pitch and hit into the wind blowing out to left field. It was his third home run.

Arkansas had a base runner in the top of the inning after Dominic Fletcher drew a leadoff walk, but never advanced to second base.

Arkansas 0, Mississippi State 0 - End 2nd Inning

Both teams have singled but been unable to score in each at-bat today. Justin Foscue singled with one out and eventually advanced to third base, but Marshall Gilbert grounded out to end the inning.

The Bulldogs have stranded two and the Razorbacks one.

Arkansas 0, Mississippi State 0 - Middle 2nd Inning

Carson Shaddy's leadoff single was erased when Grant Koch hit into a 4-6-3 double play, and Luke Bonfield struck out swinging at an inside slider to end the inning.

Koch stands off the plate a bit and had to reach at a borderline 3-2 pitch to the outside. He didn't make good contact and it was an easy play for the second baseman, Hunter Stovall. That was Mississippi State's 37th double play, which leads the SEC.

Arkansas 0, Mississippi State 0 - End 1st Inning

Both teams singled and stranded a base runner in the first inning. Casey Martin had a two-out hit for the Razorbacks, but Heston Kjerstad grounded out in the next at-bat. Jake Mangum led off with a single for the Bulldogs and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Kacey Murphy struck out Tanner Allen and got Hunter Stovall to foul out to the first baseman.

Pregame

Arkansas and Mississippi State will play a pair of nine-inning games today in Starkville. The first game begins at noon and the second will be played approximately 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first.

Like last Saturday against South Carolina, the Razorbacks must win both games today to win the series. Arkansas blew a five-run lead last night in a 6-5 loss to the Bulldogs. Arkansas still is first place in the SEC West and Mississippi State is still in last place in the division.

A pair of left-handers will throw in the first game. Kacey Murphy, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning a week ago, will throw for the Razorbacks. The Bulldogs will counter with Ethan Small, who has a 2.94 ERA.

Arkansas has shaken up its lineup today, moving Jax Biggers back to the leadoff position. Casey Martin will bat third and Luke Bonfield has moved down to seventh.

It is 70 degrees in Starkville and should be nice all day. There is rain in the forecast, but not until late evening. It will be interesting to see how many fans show up for this game. MSU's spring football game begins at 3 p.m.

Mark Chapman is behind the plate for Game 1 today.

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