SEC BASEBALL:

Hogs swept away in Starkville

By: Brody Miller Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018
Arkansas' Kacey Murphy (21) pitches during the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Photo by Jim Lytle
Arkansas' Kacey Murphy (21) pitches during the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, April 21, 2018.

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn stood in a huddle of his players in the visitors dugout and spoke a little longer Saturday night.

His team, which was in first place in the SEC West and ranked No. 3 in the country, had just been swept by the last-place team in the division entering the weekend.

Mississippi State followed its 6-5 victory Friday night -- in which the Bulldogs trailed 5-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning -- with a doubleheader sweep of 5-3 and 7-5 on Saturday at Dudy Noble Field.

When asked what he told his team, Van Horn said it was between him and his players. But he was ready to tick off the reasons why the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (28-13, 10-8 SEC) finds itself in the midst of its first three-game losing streak of the season.

"What went wrong is we didn't drive in runs, and we didn't pitch very well out of the bullpen, and we just didn't play very good, bottom line," he said.

The first loss of Saturday's doubleheader occurred, in part, from what Van Horn called an inability to take advantage of opportunities. The Razorbacks left 11 runners on base against the Bulldogs (22-19, 8-10).

What could have been a big inning in the fourth was stopped because on Luke Bonfield's single that tied the game 1-1, Carson Shaddy was thrown out at third base by center fielder Jake Mangum after the run scored.

The Hogs had the bases loaded in the eighth before Dominic Fletcher popped up to end the threat, and the Razorbacks came up short in their final attempt at a rally in the ninth.

After the Hogs' first two batters were retired, Eric Cole homered off Mississippi State reliever Blake Smith to make it 5-3. Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad both singled to put runners at first and second, and a failed pickoff attempt allowed both runners to move up a base.

A ball glanced off Shaddy's hand but was called foul. A review overturned the foul ball call, and Shaddy was awarded first to load the bases again.

Grant Koch had a chance at a breakthrough at-bat, but Smith struck him out swinging to clinch the victory.

"They stymied a couple of our rallies when we had opportunities to score a run here or one there, and we didn't take advantage of it," Van Horn said.

Kacey Murphy, who had allowed just 10 runs all season in 7 starts, allowed 3 runs on 8 hits in 6 2/3 innings. He allowed a solo home run to Rowdey Jordan in the third inning and two more runs in the fifth as Mississippi State took a 3-1 lead. Cody Scroggins, Zebulon Vermillion and Kole Ramage combined to cover 1 1/3 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 2 hits and 1 walk.

In the final game of the series, Arkansas took a 3-0 lead six batters into the game, powered by Jared Gates' two-run double. But the Razorbacks managed just two runs over the next eight innings.

What was a 3-1 Arkansas lead heading into the fifth inning shrank to a 3-2 lead when Justin Foscue doubled off starter Isaiah Campbell, then scored when a pair of groundouts advanced him. The Razorbacks increased the lead to 4-2 on Casey Opitz's RBI single in the top of the sixth, but the Bulldogs answered with four runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Van Horn said many of the Hogs' issues were in the bullpen.

"It seems like when they first come in, it takes them a hitter or two before they settle in, and by then they've punched in a run or two," he said.

Campbell pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing 6 runs, 5 earned, on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. Jake Reindl relieved him, allowing 3 hits and 1 earned run in 2 1/3 innings.

Van Horn credited Mississippi State for playing well in its own ballpark. He commented Friday that MSU was a team that caught bad breaks this year, and Arkansas is a team that caught some good ones.

"This game -- it will humble you a little bit," he said Saturday.

Van Horn said the weekend pointed out issues such as advancing runners, driving them in and the bullpen that will be points of emphasis.

Next comes a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday against Texas Tech.

"We'll go back to the drawing board and try to see if we can regroup," Van Horn said.

Sports on 04/22/2018

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