Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas rallies to beat Mississippi State in opener
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz runs to home plate to score a run during the sixth inning of a game against Mississippi State on Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Arkansas scored five runs over its final three innings at the plate and the No. 10 Razorbacks rallied to defeat No. 2 Mississippi State 5-3 Thursday at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Casey Martin and Matt Goodheart had back-to-back RBI hits against Mississippi State starter Ethan Small in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Razorbacks a 3-1 lead. Small retired the first 12 batters he faced and had allowed only one hit through five innings.
Arkansas (28-10, 10-6 SEC) added two more runs in the eighth inning on Dominic Fletcher's two-out home run against MSU reliever Riley Self.
The Bulldogs (32-7, 10-6) pulled within 5-3 on Elijah MacNamee's lead off home run in the ninth, but Arkansas closer Matt Cronin retired the next three batters to record his eighth save, but first since March 29.
Arkansas right hander Isaiah Campbell earned the win by pitching a season-high 7 2/3 innings. Campbell allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and struck out 10. He did not walk any batters.
Small took his first loss of the season. The three runs were the most he has allowed in a game.
The teams are scheduled to play again Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Arkansas 5, Mississippi State 3 - Final
Matt Cronin struck out two and got Dustin Skelton to sky one to the shortstop to end the game. The Razorbacks have defeated Mississippi State and tied the Bulldogs for second place in the SEC West standings.
More soon at WholeHogSports.com.
Arkansas 5, Mississippi State 3 - Top 9th Inning
Elijah MacNamee crushed Matt Cronin's first pitch of the ninth into the left field Hog Pen. How big is that Dominic Fletcher home run now? It's the difference in the Razorbacks leading or the game being tied.
Arkansas 5, Mississippi State 2 - End 8th Inning
Arkansas stranded two after Heston Kjerstad singled and Jack Kenley doubled with two outs. The inning ended when Jacob Nesbit struck out swinging at a slider low and away.
Matt Cronin will face the Bulldogs' 4-5-6 batters in the ninth.
Arkansas 5, Mississippi State 2 - Bottom 8th Inning
The Razorbacks get two big insurance runs in the eighth on a two-out, two-run home run by Dominic Fletcher that bounced off the flag pole beyond right field. It scored Trevor Ezell, who walked to lead off the inning against MSU reliever Riley Self.
Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 2 - Middle 8th Inning
Matt Cronin hit Jake Mangum and waked Jordan Westburg, but struck out Tanner Allen to strand two and preserve the Arkansas lead.
The top of the Razorbacks' order will bat in the bottom of the inning.
Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 2 - Top 8th Inning
Dustin Skelton doubled to lead off the eighth, advanced to third and scored on an infield groundout by Josh Hatcher.
Isaiah Campbell recorded the first two outs of the inning and has given way to Matt Cronin, who will face Jake Mangum at the top of the MSU order.
Campbell's final line: 7 2/3 innings, 2 runs, 5 hits, 0 walks, 10 strikeouts. He is in line for the win.
Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 1 - End 7th Inning
Arkansas chased Ethan Small after Small threw 33 pitches in the sixth. Riley Self worked around Christian Franklin's two-out single in the bottom of the seventh.
Small's final line: 6 innings, 3 runs, 5 hits, 9 strikeouts, 1 walk.
Meanwhile, Isaiah Campbell has looked like a different pitcher since the home run in the fifth. He has retired nine straight batters and has become extremely efficient, keeping his pitch count in the 90s going into the eighth inning. Campbell has struck out 10.
Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 1 - Bottom 6th Inning
Ethan Small's invincibility ended quickly. Casey Optiz drew a leadoff walk, Christian Franklin followed with a single, and Casey Martin and Matt Goodheart both have RBI hits in the inning.
Opitz and Franklin advanced on a great bunt by Trevor Ezell. Martin doubled to score both, then scored on a single by Goodheart on the next pitch.
Arkansas has three hits in this inning. The Razorbacks had one hit through five innings.
Mississippi State 1, Arkansas 0 - Middle 6th Inning
Isaiah Campbell has bounced back well since allowing the home run in the fifth. He has retired six straight batters and his pitch count is a manageable 84 through six innings. Campbell has eight strikeouts.
Mississippi State 1, Arkansas 0 - End 5th Inning
Arkansas busted up Ethan Small's perfect game when Dominic Fletcher singled past the third baseman, Gunner Halter, to lead off the inning. Halter was shaded toward shortstop as MSU shifted to play against a pull. Fletcher went the other way and right at where Halter would have normally positioned himself.
Fletcher never moved off first base, though. The inning ended with a loud out by Jacob Nesbit, who flied out to left.
Small has struck out eight batters and thrown 59 pitches.
Mississippi State 1, Arkansas 0 - Top 5th Inning
Rowdey Jordan's leadoff home run in the fifth inning has given Mississippi State the lead, and with the way Ethan Small is pitching it may be the only run the Bulldogs need.
Jordan's homer came on a curveball from Campbell and landed in the opposing bullpen.
Small is just carving up Arkansas' batters. He is perfect through four innings and has only had to throw 44 pitches. The Razorbacks have struck out seven times against him.
Arkansas 0, Mississippi State 0 - End 3rd Inning
Arkansas has no hits and Mississippi State doesn't have a hit since the first inning. Both pitchers were absolutely phenomenal in the third.
Isaiah Campbell struck out two batters and got Jake Mangum to ground out to end the inning. Ethan Small struck out Arkansas' 7-8-9 hitters - all swinging - and has six strikeouts tonight. His inning-ending strikeout of Christian Franklin was Small's 100th strikeout of the year.
Arkansas 0, Mississippi State 0 - End 2nd Inning
The pitching matchup we expected has materialized so far. Both teams went down in order in the second inning.
The difference right now is the pitch count. Isaiah Campbell has thrown 33 pitches, whereas Arkansas is swinging early in counts against MSU's Ethan Small, who has thrown 19 pitches.
Mississippi State's defense is interesting to watch. The Bulldogs are shifting on several batters, including one of the most defined shifts you'll ever see during Heston Kjerstad's second-inning strikeout.
Arkansas 0, Mississippi State 0 - End 1st Inning
The top and bottom of the first were quite different, but both were scoreless.
Jake Mangum led off with a first-pitch single - the 346th of his career, six shy of the SEC record - but he was later picked off at first base by Isaiah Campbell. Tanner Allen added a two-out single at the end of a lengthy at-bat, but the top of the inning ended when Elijah MacNamee grounded out.
Arkansas went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. The Razorbacks only made MSU starter Ethan Small throw nine pitches.
It's a cool, kind of chilly night in Fayetteville after some rain moved through overnight.
This is one of the premier pitching matchups we'll see in the SEC this year. Isaiah Campbell and MiSU left hander Ethan Small are two of the league's best, a pair of redshirt juniors. Ironically, both were coached by Wes Johnson during their college careers.
There is a good crowd, but it won't be one of the biggest of the year. The 8 o'clock first pitch on a work night will keep some people away.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.